Meet Emily Post
We also discovered, much to our delight, that many people had a one-to-one association between the word etiquette and the name Emily Post. This is where I get to introduce you to my great, great grandmother Emily Post. Something else we discovered in that (mumbles), is that most people thought Emily Post was still alive and about ten years older than they were. (audience laughing) That she was some sort of authority on etiquette. She's probably writing a newspaper column right now. And is about ten years older than I am. I like to start to disabuse people of their notions about Emily Post right from the start, by sharing a picture of her as a young woman. This is Emily when she was about 20 years old. About 30 years before she wrote her first book of etiquette. We could spend the rest of our time together with me talking about Emily Post. I love to talk about, she was a remarkable and dynamic woman. She was married not long after this picture was taken. She had two sons. She was divorc...
ed not too long after that. She was caught in a real scandal at the time. You can learn more about Emily Post by reading the biography about her by Laura Claridge. I recommend it very highly, it's a remarkable biography. It tells her story in its totality. Her husband got caught in a scandal. After the scandal had resolved itself, she asked for a divorce. This was uncommon in her time. And she wrote to support herself and her two children. She was a career woman in the early 1900s. She started off with romance novels. Her first work of non-fiction was a book called "By Motor to the Golden Gate" about a cross country road trip she took in 1914. The book was published in 1916. She had wrote a series of articles about this road trip that were mailed home and published as apart of a serial publication, Collier's Magazine. Those articles were then assembled into a book. I get to say Emily Post and Jack Kerouac in the same sentence. She was part of the great American tradition of chronicling a cross country road trip. This was quite an adventure, quite a project to undertake at the time. She wasn't the first person or even one of the first couple people to do a cross country road trip. But she was in an early cluster of people that approached this as a task. She had established herself as a writer, both of romance and of non-fiction. Etiquette books were popular in the 1910s, 1920s, and she was approached by a publisher, by an editor about writing a book about etiquette, and she said, you know I'm really not interested. Tell this man I don't have much to say about the topic. It can all be reduced to a few basic principles. He persisted, she relented. She published her book, titled "Etiquette" in 1922. It became an instant hit. It's hard to describe to an audience today, a contemporary audience, how a book could have the impact that it had in the time that Emily published "Etiquette." She became an overnight celebrity, a figure of national prominence and importance almost instantaneously. She went on to have a syndicated newspaper column and a radio show that was also incredibly popular in its day, but it was really the book "Etiquette" that established Emily Post as the foremost authority on social conduct in her time and for generations that would follow. Also, just because we're talking a little bit about Emily Post, a little bit of history. Her father was a man named Bruce Price, an architect of some note. He designed Tuxedo Park. This was one of the first planned residential developments outside New York City, and as part of his commission for designing Tuxedo Park, he was given a house there. Emily grew up in Tuxedo Park, attending social functions at the social club at Tuxedo Park. It's where she was exposed to the world of the Astors and the Vanderbilts. New York's best society, a term of art at the time. Not mine. But it's where she got exposed to the manners and the social conduct that established her as an authority to write her first book of etiquette in 1922. It wasn't long before her book of etiquette had started to change or evolve. Before, she was no longer just describing the manners of New York's best society, but she was also describing the manners of America's emerging middle class. Emily started to change and evolve her tradition, even within her own lifetime. She continued to update the book "Etiquette" throughout the course of her life. They couldn't print it fast enough. It went through multiple editions in her lifetime. She founded the Emily Post Institute with her son, Ned, to continue this tradition. When I joined the institute, we were working on the 18th edition of Emily Post's "Etiquette". My first solo project with the institute was a book called "Manners in a Digital World". About a particular set of manners that didn't exist in Emily's day. Although, Emily was writing and working through the advent and arrival of the telephone. So she had her own communication revolution that she was dealing with in her time as well. A lot of the material that I'm gonna present today comes from a book called "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." It's currently in its 3rd edition. A lot of the material that I present to live audiences, that I present to businesses and organizations around the country and around the world, is developed and adapted out of the book, "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." The current edition of Emily Post's "Etiquette" is the 19th edition of Emily Post's "Etiquette" and we're working furiously on the 20th edition which will be published on the hundred year anniversary of the original publication of "Etiquette" in 1920, in 2022. What made this tradition so lasting? What made her etiquette an etiquette that was sustainable for almost a hundred years, through five generations, where other etiquette experts have come and gone, have achieved levels of prominence and notoriety, and importance and significance. There are other people that have done this work and done this work well. But there's something about the Emily Post tradition that I think is really important, and it's part of what I wanna share with you, because I think it's what's gonna help continue to make etiquette relevant today, and hopefully impactful in your lives. Emily Post had a clarity of vision about the content that she was presenting. This is a picture of Emily, how I think more people picture her, as sort of a a motherly figure. This is her with her great grandchildren. My uncles, Billy and Allen. Emily said about etiquette, whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette. Etiquette is not some rigid code of manners. It's simply how people's lives touch one another. This was Emily writing back in the early 1900s. She really understood that what she was talking about wasn't just a codification of a particular set of behaviors. That what she was talking about was how people treated each other and how that mattered. She cared about this. And it guided the way that she wrote and talked about and described etiquette. I think it's this definition of etiquette that's allowed us to continue to evolve and develop her tradition, and why I think it remains relevant today. I said at the start of our time together that relationships are the fabric, the architecture of our lives in many, many ways. None of us live and survive alone. We all depend on each other. And an awareness of this and an ability to prioritize that and navigate it with intelligence and care, is really what I think is the heart of good etiquette.