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 the column below, from September 27, 1916, Beatrice bemoaned the “girls gone wild” of summertime: spooning on park benches and streetcar seats, wearing bathing suits cut well above the knee, and flirting with wolves in blue-serge sheep’s clothing. Mercy!