Emily Post overshadowed her contemporary, Amy Vanderbilt, and was one of the role models for Judith Martin, aka. Miss Manners. All three became famous as authorities on social behavior. Emily Post, and later, Miss Manners based their advice by applying good common snse and thoughtfulness as basic human interactions.
She was born, Emily Price, on October 27, 1872. That date is not exactly certain. She was the daughter of Bruce and Josephine Price. Her father was a reknowned architect. The young Price was educated in private schools and a finishing school in New York City. The popular debutante married Edwin Post in 1892 and divorced him in 1905, due to her husband’s habitual infidelity.
Emily Post was compelled by financial considerations to earn her living through writing. Post produced general interest articles for The Century, Harpers, and Scribner’s. She authored several light novels, including: Flight of the Moth, The Title Market, and The Eagle’s Feather.
In 1922, her publisher, Funk & Wagnalls, requested that Post should write a book about etiquette. The result was Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home. The publisher’s advertisement for the book stated:
“Far from being a proscriber of minutiae, Post the philosopher offers a way of living: ‘Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality, the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.’ Post gives us thousands of tips on correspondence, wedding planning, party giving and conduct in every public or private setting.”
Emily Post’s etiquette book was an instant success because her friendly, lively style appealed to popular readers. It differed from the Victorian conforming books of the day. Even though Post laid down the fundamental rules of good manners, she kept up with changing mores of the times. Her etiquette book helped guide people through the swiftly changing nature of society at that time.
Post followed up the immense success of the etiquette book with such titles as: How to Behave Though a Debutante, The Personality of a House, Children Are People, The Emily Post Cook Book, and she coauthored Motor Manners. After 1932, Post penned a daily newspaper column for the Bell Syndicate that was printed in more than 200 newspapers.
Much of Post’s writing expanded on the ground rules we all should have learned in childhood. For instance: say please and thank you; if you can’t say anything nice, talk about the weather, don’t chew with your mouth open; and remove the price tag from a gift.
Regarding the admonition not to talk about politics and religion at the dinner table, Post knew people do so, anyway. Since we’re already in the heat of campaigns and a culture war, I decided to investigate what she had to say about these hot-button subjects:
A. Keep the conversation at a general level, keep away from personal, opinionated, or judgemental comments.
B. Make sure your purpose for the conversation is to learn or gently try to change someone’s mind. Keep the talk civil, at all times.
C. Have a tactful exit strategy. If the conversation starts to become heated, have a stock answer ready to get you out of a quarrel.
D. Entirely , avoid controversial topics during holidays, weddings, and funerals. Gatherings for these events should leave us with pleasant memories not regrets.
E. Don’t presume somebody either agrees or disagrees with you. We are at our best when we do not condescend. If political or religious talk becomes deadlocked, engage your exit strategy and leave in peace.
If only today’s politicians and pundits could read Emily Post’s etiquette book and take the advice to heart, the world would be a much better place. Post once said, “Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is the code of sportsmanship and of honor. It is ethics.”
86-year-old Emily Post died at her New York City apartment on September 25, 1960 after a brief illness.
The Blue Jay of Happiness wishes more people practiced Emily Post’s philosophy. “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”