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Emily Post

Emily Post was a fierce egalitarian who believed that behavior – not income – defined class.

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Emily Post died almost 50 years ago and the name that survived her conjures an image of a fussy, obsessively prim lady sipping tea with her pinky held aloft. Which is a shame, because Emily Post would’ve hated that raised pinky.

“She was the enemy of the little finger that extended elegantly from the teacup,” wrote the New York Times upon her death in 1960.

Like Sigmund Freud or Albert Einstein, Post is remembered as a singular authority on one subject. In her case, that subject is manners.

Not much else remains of the woman whose “little blue book” is still the second-most stolen book from public libraries. (Only the Bible is swiped more often.)

But Post was far more than just a maven of manners. She was also the author of six novels, a cookbook, a cross-country travelogue, an architectural guide, and a child-rearing manual.

She wrote stacks of articles for magazines such as Collier’s and Ladies’ Home Journal. She hosted a radio program, wrote a syndicated newspaper column, and endorsed everything from cigarettes to soap.

She survived a scandalous divorce, designed her own house, hung out with the likes of Mark Twain, and – unbeknown even to her own family until now – after World War II, she worked anonymously to bring orphaned Jewish children to America.


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