Dear Beatrice: When Hobble Skirts Were the Bee’s Knees

In 1898 Marie Manning, a columnist for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal, began writing “Dear Beatrice Fairfax,” the world’s first column offering advice to the lovelorn. The Fort Worth Telegram and its successor, the Star-Telegram, ran the syndicated column from 1903 to 1922. Through the years the column went through changes of title and format but retained the level-headed perspective that would later be carried on by “Dear Abby” and “Ask Ann Landers.” 

The letters written by advice seekers and the replies given by Beatrice Fairfax reveal social conventions, fashions, and other aspects of everyday life in the early twentieth century.

For example, in 1910 Beatrice tsk-tsked the popularity of the hobble skirt, which had a hem that was so tight around the legs (sometimes even a braided band was worn below the knees—see photo from Wikipedia) that walking was difficult. (Morticia on The Addams Family often wore a hobble skirt.)

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