The DOROTHY DIX SPECIAL COLLECTION (Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, 1861-1951)

RESEARCH GUIDE

DOROTHY DIX SPECIAL COLLECTION
Materials from the A. Huntington Patch Library
Gift from Dorothy Dix to Her Nephew


Catalogued and Preserved by Inga A. Filippo
Associate Professor of Library Administration
F.G. Woodward Library, Austin Peay State University
2005

Note from Mr. A. Huntington Patch

“I inherited her library (or as much of it as I could give house-room!) and among her possessions a dozen or more of her trip dairies written in her own hand writing telling of her various activities of her many and varied trips to all parts of the world.  She was a great traveler, and took in all of the “musts” of Europe, Egypt, India, the Orient and South America. 

My stack of her letters, I’m afraid, isn’t of any great interest to anyone, now.  They covered very personal discussions of health and welfare of her devoted family – her sister (who was my mother) – letters to me and to my first wife, regarding whose health “Lig” was most solicitous.  Most of the letters were hastily typed by herself or her faithful Clare Gold a cousin of Mrs. C.E. Meriwether, who worked with “Lig” over the years.”        

Biography of Dorothy Dix
(November 18, 1861-December 16, 1951))

As the forerunner of today’s popular advice columnists, Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, writing under the pen name Dorothy Dix, was America’s highest paid and most widely read female journalist at the time of her death.  Her advice on love and 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.

Dorothy Dix was born Elizabeth Meriwether daughter to Maria Winston Meriwether and William Douglas.  Elizabeth was the oldest of their three children.  Mary was the middle child, and Charles Edward the youngest.  The Meriwether family resided on the 5,000 acre Woodstock Plantation located in both Montgomery County, Tennessee and Todd County, Kentucky.

At the age of twenty-four she married George O. Gilmer.  “Having finished school, I tucked up my hair and got married as was the tribal custom among my people,” Elizabeth said.  Her marriage was not a happy one, but Elizabeth remained married to George, who was mentally unstable and something of a misfit, until his death in 1929.   After eleven years of marriage Elizabeth suffered a nervous break down, and her family brought her to the Gulf Coast for relaxation and time away from her husband. 

Here she met the owner and editor of the New Orleans Picayune newspaper, Eliza Holbrook Poitevent Nicholson, who bought a story from Elizabeth for publication in the Picayune.  Soon thereafter Elizabeth was hired by Mrs. Nicholson as a reporter for the newspaper.  This is how Elizabeth got started on her journalism career.  Elizabeth took her work seriously, “I had a passion for newspaper work, and I set about learning my trade with the zeal of a fanatic,” she explained.  Soon she was writing a weekly column for women titled “Sunday Salad,” which was followed by her most famous writings “Dorothy Dix Talks.”  Readers liked her views on women, and she became a great success in a very short time.

In 1901 Dix, her pseudonym, accepted an offer to work for the New York Journal, owned by William Randolph Hearst, and for whom she was asked to write “dramatic accounts tersely written in a personal style,” depicting the temperance crusaders of the day, followed by murder investigative reporting.  However, she continued to write the “Dorothy Dix Talks” column which by 1908 had become a daily, prominent and widely read column. 

During her years in New York she published several books on relationships between husbands and wives, foibles of society, and domestic life in general.  Her books were mainly collections of her column writings and became best sellers at the time they were published.

Dix left New York in 1917 and returned to her much beloved New Orleans where her family and friends remained.  The year before she left New York she accepted an offer from the Wheeler Syndicate, and later the Ledger Syndicate, which allowed her to write, travel and socialize while working from her home on Prytania Street. 

Her writings were published in newspapers across the world, and she became known as the most widely read, as well as the highest paid journalist writing for newspapers.  She said people told her things they wouldn’t even tell to God, she became known as the “confidante of the nation” and the “mother confessor to millions,” as she received thousands of letters each week from readers around the world.  

Dix was the most widely read woman writer of her times, women and men sought advice from her for over fifty years.  At the peak of her popularity around 1940 her writings were printed in 273 newspapers and read by an estimated 60 million people.  Her career as an investigative newspaper reporter included twenty years as one of the most widely known woman reporter of her time.

Miss Dix died of a heart problem at the age of 90.  “For over fifty-five years her name appeared over the column in which she gave advice to the lovelorn and which was noted for its sympathy, common sense and realism.”  She left an estate to her family of two and a half million dollars.  Much hard work, diligence and smarts had made the lowly paid reporter to the best known and highest paid woman journalist in the country.

BOOKS:

Fables of the Elite, as Dorothy Dix.  New York:  Fenno, 1902

Mirandy, as Dorothy Dix.   New York:  Hearst’s International Library, 1914; London:  Low, 1914

Hearts a la Mode, as Dorothy Dix.  New York:  Hearst’s International Library, 1915

My Joy-Ride Round the World, as Dorothy Dix.  London:  Mills & Boon, 1922; republished as My Trip Round the World Philadelphia:   Penn, 1924

Mirandy Exhorts, as Dorothy Dix.  Philadelphia:  Penn, 1925

Dorothy Dix - Her Book:  Every-day Help for Every-day People.  New York & London:  Funk & Wagnalls, 1926

Mexico (booklet), by Dorothy Dix.  Gulfport, Miss.:  C. Rand, 1934

How to Win and Hold a Husband, as Dorothy Dix.  New York:  Doubleday, Doran, 1939

PERIODICAL PUBLICATION:

“Mother Confessor to Millions,” Times-Picayune New Orleans States Magazine, 5 May 1946, pp. 6-7

MAJOR POSITIONS HELD:

Reporter and columnist, New Orleans Picayune, 1894-1901

New York Journal, 1901-1916

Wheeler Syndicate, 1916-1923

Ledger Syndicate, 1923-1942

Bell Syndicate, 1942-1949

Scope and Content Notes

The Dorothy Dix Collection is a special collection about a local writer with an international reputation.  Due to the foresight of former Austin Peay State University head librarian, Ms. Johnnie Givens, who believed that a potential wealth of research materials could be found in homes of families and friends of regional writers in her service area, the acquired collection meets an objective in developing materials important to its region and is closely linked to those found in other collections.

 Although there are several libraries with collections containing information on Miss Dix, the largest such collection is housed in the F. G. Woodward Library.  The collection, culled from the A. Huntington Patch materials, was donated to the Library by the Patch family of Asheville, North Carolina, a favored nephew of Dix.  Huntington’s mother, Mary Patch, was the sister of Dorothy Dix.

The collection has been added to and is now broader in content and holds approximately 1,500 items:  personal letters, scrapbooks and journals from her many travels, copies of all her books, personal mementoes, photographs, and mostly newspaper clippings of her writings.  The collection is organized into fifteen major categories with each category separated into subheadings.

Researchers need to consult the Research Guide listed below to locate specific items in the collection.  All documents are available in hard copies and on microfilm.  The Dorothy Dix Collection is housed in the Felix G. Woodward Library, Austin Peay State University. 

Box I – Autobiographical (1 folder - 5 items plus her diaries and books)

Box II – Biographical (18 folders – 226 items)

Box III – Writings by Dix (22 folders – 266 items)

Box IV – Writings on the Dix Biography (5 folders – 53 items)

Box V – Writings about Dix’s Work by Journalists and Readers, Short Quotes (2 folders – 99 items)

Box VI – Travel Diaries, Autograph Book and Scrap Books (3 folders – 14 items)

Box VII – Newspaper Career (14 folders – 70 items)

Box VIII – Correspondence (4 folders – 150+ items)

Box IX – Travel (1 folder – 25 items)

Box X – Photographs from Newspapers and Magazines and Newspapers (11 folders – 120+ items)

Box XI – Memorabilia
(1 folder – 32 items)

Box XII – Dorothy Dix Symposium (1 folder – 14 items)

Box XIII – Dix Collection Administration and Procurement
(6 folders54+ items)

Box XIV – Slides of Dix’s Life, the Dorothy Dix Symposium and Woodstock (8 folders – 135 items)
 


Dorothy Dix home page