As the forerunner of today's popular advice columnists, Dorothy Dix was America's highest paid and most widely read female journalist at the time of her death. Her advice on marriage was syndicated in newspapers around the world. With an estimated audience of 60 million readers, she became a popular and recognized figure on her travels abroad.
Her reputed practice of framing questions herself to allow her to publish prepared answers gave rise to the Australian term "Dorothy Dixer", an expression widely used in Australia to refer to a question from a member of Parliament to a minister that enables the minister to make an announcement in the form of a reply. In Australian rhyming slang, a "Dorothy", or "Dorothy Dix", refers to a hit for six in cricket.
Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer was born on the Woodstock plantation located on the borders of Montgomery County, Tennessee and Todd County, Kentucky. She graduated from Hollins Institute in 1883. Her journalism career began after a chance meeting with Eliza Nicholson, the owner of the New Orleans newspaper Daily Picayune. She married her stepmother's brother, George Gilmer.
She first used the pen name Dorothy Dix in 1896 for her column in the Picayune; Dorothy, because she liked the name, and Dix in honor of an old family slave named Mr. Dick who had saved the Meriwether family silver during the Civil War. Within months the column was renamed to Dorothy Dix Talks and under that name was to become the world's longest-running newspaper feature.
The column's widespread popularity began in 1923 when Dix signed with the Philadelphia-based Public Ledger Syndicate. At various times the column was published in 273 papers. At its peak in 1940, Dix was receiving 100,000 letters a year and her estimated reading audience was about 60 million in countries including United States, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South America, China, and Canada. One of her most famous single columns was Dictates for a Happy Life, a ten-point plan for happiness, which had to be frequently reprinted due to popular demand. In addition to her newspaper columns, Dix was the author of books such as How to Win and Hold a Husband and Every-Day Help for Every-Day People.
- Christina Vella, "Dorothy Dix: The World Brought Her Its Secrets”, in Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times, ed. Judith F. Gentry and Janet Allured, pp 195–214. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009)
- Dorothy Dix, Fables of the Elite (New York: R. F. Fenno & Co, 1902).
- Dorothy Dix, Mirandy (New York: Hearst's International Library, 1914).
- Harnett Thomas Kane, Dear Dorothy Dix: The Story of A Compassionate Woman (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1952).
- Richards, Kel (2013). Kel Richards' Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. UNSW Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-74224-112-8. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- Seal, Graham (2011). Dog's Eye and Dead Horse: The Complete Guide to Australian Rhyming Slang. (Published under licence from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation). HarperCollins Publishers. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-7304-9608-3. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- "Books by Hollins Alumnae/i". Listing of Dix as Gilmer in alumna publication listing. Hollins University. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
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