OPINION: Journalist Dorothy Dix one of the most famous writers of her day

Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, who wrote under the pen name Dorothy Dix, was a pioneering female journalist who launched the forerunner of today’s newspaper advice columns.

Phil Egan

Today, nobody cares what Dorothy Dix says.

But at the peak of her fame from the late 1920s through the 1940s, as many as 60 million people read her column, Dorothy Dix Talks, making her one of the most famous writers of her day.

Her syndicated column was published in 273 newspapers in Canada, the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South America and China.

When she died at the age 90 in 1951, Dorothy Dix was America’s highest paid and most widely read female journalist, and her column was the world’s longest-running newspaper feature.

So many people, women especially, cared very much about what Dorothy Dix said.

Which is why I’m confident the banner across the top of page 4 in the May 25, 1936 edition of the Sarnia Canadian Observer would have drawn attention – just as it caught mine.

“It’s time for women to quit whining,” Dix told her loyal readers. “The life of a woman or girl is no harder than that of a man.”

It is men, Dix went on, who make most of the sacrifices and self-denials to keep a family going.

Yikes. Images of my hard-working wife, Laurie, come to mind. What is this woman talking about?

“When a group of men get together,” Dix elaborated, “they discuss abstract subjects, politics, business, literature, art, the news of the day. But listen in on a group of women and, nine times out of ten, they are telling each other their troubles.”

It gets worse.

“Men look down with contempt upon the man who buttonholes them and pours into their ears a tale of woe. But women make a heroine of the woman they can pity and enjoy mingling their tears with hers.”

Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, writing 82 years ago as Dorothy Dix, was born in 1861 and began her writing career with the New Orleans Picayune in 1896. She is considered today the forerunner of women’s advice columnists.

If I said some of the things Dorothy Dix said about women I’d be sleeping on the couch. Or in the park.

“As a rule, men bear what they have to bear without calling upon their fellow creatures to pass resolutions of sympathy for them, while women can’t be happy unless they are shouting their tribulations to the world and are objects of universal pity,” she wrote.

I have wondered if this woman had female friends. But Dorothy Dix was, unquestionably, a popular columnist, and it was women readers who kept consuming her columns to make her one of our first female journalistic giants.