The “Dear Beatrice Fairfax” advice column began in 1898 and is said to be the first advice column in the U.S. (though the popular 1890, “Ruth Ashmore” advice column by Isabel Mallon, was actually the first). Written by Marie Manning, it was an immediate success. At one point the column received so many letters, the U.S. Post Office refused to deliver them. The New York Evening Journal, publisher of the column, had to retrieve the letters itself. Manning's common sense advice was popular and imitated nationwide. Sadly, Manning's efforts went largely unrewarded. Manning’s pay and status remained low at the Journal, so she eventually resigned, only returning after financial hardship during the Great Depression. Manning went back to work for the Journal, again writing her Beatrice Fairfax column (which had been syndicated for years) and wrote the column until she passed away in 1945. During her lifetime of giving advice, she wrote four novels and “Beatrice Fairfax” was immortalized in several popular songs of the era. One is in the opening line of George and Ira Gershwin's song “But Not For Me,” from the 1930 musical “Girl Crazy.”
Manners are the gracious way of doing things. No better rule for “good form” and “etiquette” can ever be evolved than this simple little statment. Kind-hearted people have the first asset toward good manners, if they govern their kindly impulses by good taste and common sense they are sure to act in a manner that far exceeds “the proper thing" in human value.
Take the simple question of whether a girl shall ask a man to call on her, or no. The little courtesy of suggesting to an interested acquaintance that you will be glad to see him in your own home can not be improper. It offers dignified hospitality and suggests friendly good will, so it is kind. It is surely in better taste to meet your friends in your home than at dances or public entertainments of any sort. And common sense ought to indicate to any girl whether a man is sufficiently interested in her to want the opportunity of seeing her again, or no.
For test of any question where you doubt the certainty as to what is the proper thing to do, just apply kindness, common sense and good taste. And you will be as well off as if you had studied manners in a finishing school or a book of etiquette. – Marie Manning, aka “Beatrice Fairfax,” 1916
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia