4 Things You Never Knew About Emily Post
Emily Post is an icon of good manners. Her Emily Post’s Etiquette, is the gold standard of manners and has been since it was published in 1922. However, if you had a mental image of Post as a kind, sweet, but perhaps spoiled lady who ate lunch in pearls and wore white gloves to tea every day, she was all that, but also a whole lot more, too.
She was a novelist and journalist
Before Post wrote Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, the book that “established her status as an etiquette authority, she was already a recognized novelist and journalist,” writes the Emily Post Institute,
As a married mother of two she published her first novel, Flight of the Moth in 1902. Unfortunately, her marriage was not a happy one and she grew tired of her husband’s philandering—and the public embarrassment and fall out of it. After more than 13 years together, the couple divorced, a rarity in those days. The divorce was traumatic and public, splashed on the pages of gossip rags for months. After all that, she remained fiercely independent for the rest of her life and never remarried.
She had a taste for adventure
When she finally emerged on the other side of the drama, Post was very much her own woman. She devoted herself to her career writing novels and working for magazines, brushing elbows with the likes of Mark Twain and Edith Wharton. According to Laura Claridge’s biography, Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners Post was also quite the banjo player and in fact was “perhaps the best banjoist in fashionable society.”
In 1915, she decided it was a good idea to pack her son and a cousin Alice Beadleston, into a car and drive across the entire country with them. Yes, her son was old enough to handle the driving (he was a student at Harvard at the time), but still: Post voluntarily agreed to be locked in a car with her child and cousin for 27 days. While she and travel companions stayed in hotels most of the time, the future doyenne of etiquette was forced to sleep in the desert, the true sign of a determined road warrior.
Post documented the entire journey first in a series of articles for Colliers magazine, which she then expanded into a book, By Motor to the Golden Gate. By all accounts, it’s a hilarious story of their adventures written by one tough mama, who bravely went where few women would go before and lived to tell the tale.
She published her first etiquette book at 50
Post didn’t publish her first etiquette book until 1922, when she was 50 years old. It quickly became the go-to guide for anyone wondering about the proper etiquette for any situation. She became such an expert that according to the Emily Post Institute, at one point Post went to Tiffany’s to ask the head of the stationery department a question about invitation style, and he pulled out a copy of her own book to find the answer. Her late in life career as a manners maven lead to a syndicated column, which appeared in 160 newspapers, and received 3,000 letters a week. She had a radio program that aired three times a week, which was so popular that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was once famously said the greatest compliment he ever received for his own radio show was “You’re as good as Emily Post!” By the time 1950 rolled around, a magazine had named Post the second most powerful woman in America, after Eleanor Roosevelt.
WATCH: Modern Dating Etiquette "By Two Old People"
Her life was more than just about manners
Post’s success was based on the idea that etiquette had much more to do with "instinctive considerations for the feelings of others" than with using the right fork, which resonated with readers and radio listeners. According to Claridge’s biography, Post extended that consideration for others into good works and during World War II, Post worked anonymously to bring Jewish orphans to the United States.
As the Christian Science Monitor notes, “Post was a social egalitarian who believed that class is defined solely by one’s behavior.” If that isn’t shocking enough, Post famously happily ate with her elbows on the table. “It really makes no difference,” she said. See? She’s not the woman you may have imagined—she’s better.