Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Emily Post on Etiquette and Race Relations

and the tragedy of the lovers' lives Emily Post and her family pulled apart in order to save New York's "Best Society" and its Social Register.

"No matter who he may be, whether rich, or poor, in high life or low, the man who publicly besmirches his wife's name, besmirches still more his own, and proves that he is not, was not, and never will be, a gentleman." — Emily Post, (presumably referring only to those husbands who's wives were of the same racial background?) 

Blue Blood Marries “Colored Girl,” Emily Post Frowns - Judge Orders “Nipple” Check     
by William Norwich
Above- Domestic worker, Alice Beatrice Jones "'Are the candidate's friends as well as his family likely to be agreeable to the present members of the Club?" If not, he is not admitted."  Emily Post on Private Clubs
IN 1921, WHILE OUT motoring, society’s Leonard Kip Rhinelander met Alice Beatrice Jones, a domestic worker who lived near Stamford, Connecticut’s Orchard School, an inpatient clinic where young Leonard was seeking the cure for a variety of “nervous conditions” including stammering and extreme shyness.
Leonard Kip Rhinelander, right, in court
While Alice had a curative effect on Leonard, his family hoped it was just an upstairs-down- stairs dalliance. They hoped wrong. In 1924, shortly after Mr. Rhinelander turned 21, the couple married. Unbeknownst to all, Mrs. L. Kip Rhinelander became the first black woman in the New York Social Register—but not for long.

A reporter discovered that she was the daughter of “a colored man,” a former taxi driver who was almost unrecognizably mixed-race. Newspapers ran with headlines like “Blue Blood Weds Colored Girl.” For a few weeks, Leonard defended his wife, but his family won, urging the couple to separate “because of the Ku Klux Klan,” reported the New York Times. His lawyers filed for an annulment, claiming that Alice had hidden her race from Leonard.
Artist's depiction of Alice Beatrice Jones in the judge's chambers
In the judge’s chambers, Alice, crying and holding on to her mother, was forced to remove various articles of clothing so the all-male and all-white jury could see, by the appearance of her nipples, back, and legs, that Leonard must have known prior to the marriage that she was not entirely of white blood. To the jury’s credit, the annulment was denied, the marriage up- held. Under a subsequent agreement, Alice received a sum of $32,500 plus $3,600 annually for life. (She and Leonard never reunited.)

The annulment was denied.  Even worse?  Mrs. L. Kip Rhinelander became the first black woman in the New York Social Register. But not for long, as Emily Post was on the case!

It was Emily Post, otherwise the champion of kindness and courtesy, who pushed the Social Register to drop Alice. Personalities over principles: Her people in Tuxedo Park were related by marriage to the Rhinelanders, you see. Mrs. Post got more than she bargained for. She sought only Alice’s ouster, but with it came Leonard’s as well.

A product of her time undoubtedly, even Emily Post couldn't quite figure out what she meant by "Best Society."
 In the 1945 edition of Emily Post's book "Etiquette," Post quoted a disgruntled reader of her work, bridling at the prospect of imitating New York's "Cafe Society," a group known to be less mannerly than "pretentious and vulgar." Just who, the reader demanded to know, are these Best People, whose example Post commends throughout her book? Her answer follows: "There is nowhere to go to see Best Society on parade, because parading is one thing the Best Society does not intentionally do. And yet it is true (and this is one of the things harder to make clear) that in the forefront of the public parade are to be found a certain few who are really best. But they are best in spite of, and not because of, the publicity they attract. When I say that "people of taste do this or think that," I naturally have in mind definite people whose taste is the most nearly perfect among all those whom I know. Or on occasion, perhaps, I go back in memory to the precepts of those whose excellence has remained an ideal. In other words when I write of people of quality or 
fashion or taste, I always select the individual people who ideally serve as models... In other words... Best Society, Best People, or People of Quality can all be defined as people of cultivation, courtesy, taste, and kindness -- people, moreover, who are very rarely disassociated from their backgrounds." Emily Post

From "A Short History of Rudeness" by Mark Caldwell

Selections from Emily Post's "Etiquette"

Far more important than any mere dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how "polished," can be considered a gentleman. The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles; he is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless, and the champion of justice--or he is not a gentleman. 


A gentleman does not, and a man who aspires to be one must not, ever borrow money from a woman, nor should he, except in unexpected circumstances, borrow money from a man. Money borrowed without security is a debt of honor which must be paid without fail and promptly as possible. The debts incurred by a deceased parent, brother, sister, or grown child, are assumed by honorable men and women, as debts of honor. 

A gentleman never takes advantage of a woman in a business dealing, nor of the poor or the helpless. One who is not well off does not "sponge," but pays his own way to the utmost of his ability. One who is rich does not make a display of his money or his possessions. Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him. 

A very well-bred man intensely dislikes the mention of money, and never speaks of it (out of business hours) if he can avoid it. 

A gentleman never discusses his family affairs either in public or with acquaintances, nor does he speak more than casually about his wife. A man is a cad who tells anyone, no matter who, what his wife told him in confidence, or describes what she looks like in her bedroom. To impart details of her beauty is scarcely better than to publish her blemishes; to do either is unspeakable. Nor does a gentleman ever criticise the behavior of a wife whose conduct is scandalous. What he says to her in the privacy of their own apartments is no one's affair but his own, but he must never treat her with disrespect before their children, or a servant, or any one. 

A man of honor never seeks publicly to divorce his wife, no matter what he believes her conduct to have been; but for the protection of his own name, and that of the children, he allows her to get her freedom on other than criminal grounds. No matter who he may be, whether rich, or poor, in high life or low, the man who publicly besmirches his wife's name, besmirches still more his own, and proves that he is not, was not, and never will be, a gentleman. 

No gentleman goes to a lady's house if he is affected by alcohol. A gentleman seeing a young man who is not entirely himself in the presence of ladies, quietly induces the youth to depart. An older man addicted to the use of too much alcohol, need not be discussed, since he ceases to be asked to the houses of ladies. 

A gentleman does not lose control of his temper. In fact, in his own self-control under difficult or dangerous circumstances, lies his chief ascendancy over others who impulsively betray every emotion which animates them. Exhibitions of anger, fear, hatred, embarrassment, ardor or hilarity, are all bad form in public. And bad 

form is merely an action which "jars" the sensibilities of others. 

Nothing so blatantly proclaims a woman climber as the repetition of prominent names, the owners of which she must have struggled to know. Otherwise, why so eagerly boast of the achievement? Nobody cares whom she knows--nobody that is, but a climber like herself. To those who were born and who live, no matter how quietly, in the security of a perfectly good ledge above and away from the social ladder's rungs, the evidence 
of one frantically climbing and trying to vaunt her exalted position is merely ludicrous. 

All thoroughbred women, and men, are considerate of others less fortunately placed, especially of those in their employ. One of the tests by which to distinguish between the woman of breeding and the woman merely of wealth, is to notice the way she speaks to dependents. Queen Victoria's duchesses, those great ladies of grand manner, were the very ones who, on entering the house of a close friend, said "How do you do, Hawkins?" to a butler; and to a sister duchess's maid, "Good morning, Jenkins." A Maryland lady, still living on the estate granted to her family three generations before the Revolution, is quite as polite to her friends' servants as to her friends themselves. When you see a woman in silks and sables and diamonds speak to a little errand girl or a footman or a scullery maid as though they were the dirt under her feet, you may be sure of one thing; she hasn't come a very long way from the ground herself.

Emily Post on Country Clubs

Country clubs are as a rule less exclusive and less expensive than the representative city clubs, but those like the Myopia Hunt, the Tuxedo, the Saddle and Cycle, the Burlingame, and countless others in between, are many of them more expensive to belong to than any clubs in London or New York, and are precisely the same in matters of membership and management. They are also quite as difficult to be elected to as any of the exclusive clubs in the cities—more so if anything, because they are open to the family and friends of every member, whereas in a man's club in a city his membership gives the privilege of the club to no one but himself personally. The test question always put by the governors at elections is: "Are the candidate's friends as well as his family likely to be agreeable to the present members of the Club?" If not, he is not admitted.

Nearly all country clubs have, however, one open door—unknown to city ones. People taking houses in the neighborhood are often granted "season privileges"; meaning that on being proposed by a member and upon paying a season subscription, new householders are accepted as transient guests. In some clubs this season subscription may be indefinitely renewed; in others a man must come up for regular election at the end of three months or six or a year.

Apart from what may be called the few representative and exclusive country clubs, there are hundreds—more likely thousands—which have very simple requirements for membership. The mere form of having one or two members vouch for a candidate's integrity and good behavior is sufficient.

Golf clubs, hunting clubs, political or sports clubs have special membership qualifications; all good golf players are as a rule welcomed at all golf clubs; all huntsmen at hunting clubs, and yet the Myopia would not think of admitting the best rider ever known if he was not unquestionably a gentleman. But this is unusual. As a rule, the great player is welcomed in any club specially devoted to the sport in which he excels.

In many clubs a stranger may be given a three (sometimes it is six) months' transient membership, available in some instances to foreigners only; in others to strangers living beyond a certain distance. A name is proposed and seconded by two members and then voted on by the governors, or the house committee.

The best known and most distinguished club of New England has an "Annex" in which there are dining-rooms to which ladies as well as gentlemen who are not members are admitted, and this annex plan has since been followed by others elsewhere.

All men's clubs have private dining-rooms in which members can give stag dinners, but the

All men's clubs have private dining-rooms in which members can give stag dinners, but the representative men's clubs exclude ladies absolutely from ever crossing their thresholds.

Excerpt From: Post, Emily. “Etiquette.”

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