Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'll Miss You, Tish

I was saddened to read that Letitia Baldridge, etiquette doyenne, died last week.

Twenty years ago, as I planned my wedding, I was so incensed with the tradition of addressing married women by their husband's name ("Mrs. Robert Smith") that I wrote a letter to Ms. Baldridge demanding to know how she could possibly condone the practice. She was kind enough to write me back, believe it or not. The letter was dictated (some of you may remember the old notation indicating that a letter had been typed by someone other than the author), but signed by the great lady herself.

I wish I'd saved that letter, but I can tell you that it was gracious, well-reasoned, and concluded with her sincere best wishes - none of which I could claim for my own letter.

The worst part is that I gave her short shrift: Ms. Baldridge was a true feminist. Just an extraordinarily polite one. As this New York Times article says, "Her brand of feminism was subversive; it wore a good dress."

Also, I believe she was brave. It takes courage to take a stand against any powerful institution - but doing it in the 60s as a female must have been daunting. Recently, Baldridge offered advice for the White House's new social secretary, a position she herself held: "The West Wing is the men's side...you've got to be strong and say no."

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