Miss Manners by Judith, Nick and Bina Martin
Type: Text Feature
Frequency: 3x Weekly
Judith Martin's Miss Manners newspaper column - distributed thrice-weekly and carried in more than 200 newspapers in the United States and abroad - has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Readers send Miss Manners not only their table and party questions, but those involving the more complicated aspects of life - romance, work, family relationships, child-rearing, death - as well as philosophical and moral dilemmas.
published Thursday, January 12, 2012
Born a perfect lady in an imperfect society, Miss Manners is the pioneer mother of today’s civility movement. Now if she could only persuade people to practice civility as much as they talk about it.
However, her tireless efforts to expand the understanding and exercise of etiquette beyond the stereotypical terror of too many pieces of silverware on the dinner table have not escaped official notice. At a 2005 White House ceremony, Judith Martin was awarded the National Humanities Medal in recognition of her role as America’s foremost etiquette columnist and author.
Judith Martin’s Miss Manners newspaper column, distributed thrice-weekly by Universal/Uclick and carried in more than 200 newspapers in the United States and abroad, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Since 1996 she has been writing an additional Miss Manners column for the Microsoft Network.
Her subject was for years dismissed as an archaic frill to be dispensed with by a world that was much too busy to trifle with such niceties. Yet serving as the language and currency of civility, etiquette reduces those inevitable frictions of everyday life that, unchecked, are increasingly erupting into the outbursts of private and public violence so readily evident in road rage, drop-of-the-hat lawsuits, fractured families and other unwelcome byproducts of a manners-free existence. These unpleasant developments have bred a nationwide call from academics, politicians, writers of all stripes and the public at large for a return to common courtesy.
As readers accept her view of life, they have increasingly sent Miss Manners not only their table and party questions, but those involving the more complicated aspects of life -- romance, work, family relationships, child-rearing, death, as well as philosophical and moral dilemmas. In her columns and her books, Mrs. Martin explores etiquette’s philosophical underpinnings and its role in every facet of our lives.
Mrs. Martin’s writing aims to both instruct and provoke her audience, as numerous commentators have observed. “Judith Martin is The National Bureau of Standards,” states columnist George Will. She’s written “some of the toughest social criticism you are likely to read,” according to critic Charlie Toft. The New York Times declares her work “an impassioned plea for a return to civilized behavior” while Newsday says she is “a philosopher cleverly and charmingly disguised as an etiquette columnist.” The Los Angeles Times deems her “an authentic visionary” and her writing “a kind of study in cultural anthropology, even if she dresses up her field notes with artful parody and self-deprecating humor.” Writer Christopher Buckley calls her “an authentic comic genius”, and TIME Magazine declared, “Martin has helped transform etiquette from the realm of society matrons to a tool for everyday life.”
Mrs. Martin is also a novelist, journalist and frequent lecturer and guest on national television and radio shows. As a reporter, feature writer and critic, she spent 25 years at The Washington Post, where she was one of the original members of the Style and Weekend sections.
Mrs. Martin and her then-newlywed daughter, Jacobina, who teaches improvcomedy at Second City, co-authored “Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding” (W. W. Norton &Company, 2010). She is writing her next book, “Miss Manners Minds Your Business,” the essential guide for a civilized workplace, with her son, Nicholas, who is director of operations at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Mrs. Martin has also written 11 other Miss Manners books, including “Star-Spangled Manners,” “Miss Manners’ Guide to Rearing Perfect Children,” and “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior,” as well as two novels. In addition, she launched a new web site in 2010 -- www.missmanners.com -- which includes the latest news updates and a link to submit questions.
Born in Washington, D.C., and reared there and in foreign capitals, Mrs. Martin is a graduate of Wellesley College and has been awarded honorary degrees. Judith Martin and her husband, a scientist and playwright, live in Washington, D.C. Their two perfect children, are now rearing their own perfect families.