Elizabeth Meriwether was born
near Woodstock, Tennessee, on November 18, 1870.
She married George Gilmer, her stepmother's
brother, but within a few months of the marriage
Elizabeth realized that George was mentally
unstable. He would be occasionally
institutionalized, leaving Elizabeth with no
means of support. The stress of coping with her
husband's illness led to physical illness and a
move to the Gulf Coast in hopes of seeking a
better atmosphere. As part of her recovery, she
turned to writing.
A New Orleans neighbor, who
happened to own The Daily Picayune, read
some of Dix's stories and was charmed by her
refreshingly direct, unadorned style. In 1896,
she hired Elizabeth to write "Sunday
Salad," an advice column for
"womankind" full of "crisp, fresh
ideas ... a dressing mixed of oil of kindness,
vinegar of satire, salt of wit." Gilmer
chose a pen name -- "Dorothy" because
she liked its dignity, and "Dix" to
honor a former slave who had helped the family
during the Civil War -- and set to work
dispensing the compassionate, realistic advice
that would be her trademark for the next
Her column, subsequently renamed "Dorothy
Dix Talks," attracted the attention of
publisher William Randolph Hearst, who in 1901
lured Dix to his New York Journal.
There, in addition to her three-times-a-week
advice column, she covered some of the most
sensational murder trials of the era. In 1920 she
tired of the crime beat and returned to New
Orleans, where she concentrated on her advice
column. Eventually Dix was picked up by a
national syndicate that published her six times a
week. By 1940 "Dorothy Dix Talks" was
published in 273 newspapers and was read by some
60 million people around the world.
In her column Dix scolded women for being
vain, self-pitying, nagging, or profligate. She
urged that women not be too quick to abandon
husbands guilty of occasional infidelities.
Idealistic young men were bluntly told that
anyone who was taken in by a gold digger
"deserved all he got." In response to
suggestions that Dix should divorce her mentally
unstable husband (who died in a mental hospital
in 1931) she replied, "I never once thought
of divorce. I could not say to others 'Be strong'
if I did not myself have strength to
Dix was the author of several books throughout
her career, including Hearts A La Mode
(1915), My Trip Around the World (1924),
Dorothy Dix, Her Book (1926) and How
to Win and Hold a Husband (1939).
Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer (aka Dorothy Dix)
died in New Orleans on December 16, 1951.
"Dear Dorothy." Discovering
America's Past. Pleasantville,
NY:Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1993.
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