Marie Manning (writer)

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This article is about the writer. For the murderer, see Marie Manning (murderer).

Marie Manning (January 22, 1872 —November 28, 1945) was a newspaper columnist and novelist in the early 20th century. She wrote the first newspaper advice column, Dear Beatrice Fairfax, in 1898, the precursor to modern versions such as Dear Abby and Ann Landers.

Early life[edit]

Manning was born in Washington, DC to Elizabeth Barrett and Michael Charles Manning. Her year of birth, while thought to be 1872, was unknown to even her immediate family and closest confidants during her lifetime. She was educated at various private schools in the District of Columbia, graduating from Miss Kerr's, a finishing school for girls.

Her mother had died in childbirth and her father died when she was 18 years old.[1] This sent her to England in the early 1890s to live with relatives; here she studied British society and wrote her first novel, Lord Alingham, Bankrupt. It was published in 1902.

Manning began writing as a columnist for the New York World in 1896 at the "space rate" of $5 per week. After being granted an exclusive interview with the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, she was promoted to permanent staff and her salary was raised to $30 per week. When the paper's Editor moved to the New York Evening Journal in 1898, she followed at his invitation. There she collaborated with two other women to create a women's page entitled the "Hen Coop".

Dear Beatrice Fairfax[edit]

During the same year, the Hen Coop received three readers' letters seeking personal advice. Manning suggested a new column exclusively devoted to personal advice. The column was named Dear Beatrice Fairfax at her suggestion, after Dante's Beatrice and her own family's country home in Fairfax County, Virginia. The column began on July 20, 1898 as the first advice column in the United States.[2]

Her advice was an immediate success, and the column received so many letters that the United States Post Office soon refused to deliver them and the Journal had to retrieve the letters itself. Manning's commonsense advice was tremendously popular and was imitated nationwide. But Manning's efforts went largely unrewarded by the newspaper, and her pay and status remained low. She eventually resigned.


During her lifetime, Manning had four novels published:

  • Lord Alingham, Bankrupt (1902)
  • Judith of the Plains (1903)
  • Personal Reply (1943)
  • Ladies Now and Then (1945)

Marriage and freelance career[edit]

In 1905, Manning married Herman Gash, a real estate agent, and devoted most of her life to raising her two sons. During this time she freelanced and her short stories were published in various magazines including Harper's Monthly and Ladies' Home Journal. She was an ardent suffragist and marched and lobbied for the cause, supported by her like-minded husband.[1]

Return to column[edit]

Manning had invested an inheritance from her father in the markets in order to supplement her husband's earnings, and the loss of this money in the Wall Street Crash of 1929 caused the family financial hardship. Manning went back to work for the New York Evening Journal, again writing her Beatrice Fairfax column (which had been syndicated for years).[1] She wrote the column until her death in 1945.


There are references to Beatrice Fairfax in several popular songs of her era. One is in the opening verse of George and Ira Gershwin's song "But Not For Me", from the 1930 musical Girl Crazy:

Beatrice Fairfax, don't you dare
Ever tell me he will care.
I'm certain
It's the final curtain...

Another is in the verse of the 1919 song "Take Your Girlie To The Movies", by Bert Kalmar, Edgar Leslie, and Pete Wendling:

Beatrice Fairfax gives advice,
To anyone in love;
That's why Johnny Gray
Wrote to her one day...

A third is in the song "Nobody Makes a Pass at Me", from Harold Rome's 1937 revue Pins and Needles (later made famous by Barbra Streisand):

Oh Beatrice Fairfax, give me the bare facts,
How do you make them fall?
If you don't save me, the things the Lord gave me
Never will be any use to me at all.

There is a poem by Kenneth Fearing entitled "Dear Beatrice Fairfax" in which he metaphorically lambasts social status as product guarantees[clarification needed].


  1. ^ a b c Olson, Lynne (May–June 1992). "dear Beatrice Fairfax...". American Heritage 43 (3). Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Marie Manning". Britannica online. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 

External links[edit]