March 14th, 2016
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Perryville Branch Library is hosting “An Evening with Dorothy Parker” on Tuesday, March 15 at 7pm. I wasn’t as familiar with Dorothy Parker as with other famous women who are often highlighted in March, so I did a little research.
“Men seldom make passes / At girls who wear glasses” was a quote made popular by Dorothy Rothschild Parker, a humorist known for her biting prose and written satires. Parker was born in West End, New Jersey on August 22, 1893 to Scottish-Jewish parents. Her mother died shortly after giving birth so Dorothy was raised by her father and step-mother. She detested her step-mother for sending her to a convent school in New York. It was there that Dorothy developed an interest in writing poetry. Her time at the convent was short-lived due to her rebellious nature so she continued her education at a finishing school in New Jersey. Her writing career started when she was hired to work at Vogue as an editor. Two years later she was hired by Vanity Fair, but Parker’s acerbic wit led to her getting fired because she wrote a scorching review about the wife of one of the magazine’s financial backers. She went on to write a book review column “Constant Reader” for the New Yorker. She left the New Yorker when her first collection Enough Rope became a best seller.
Parker continued to write poems and short stories. During the 1920’s, Dorothy was a member of the Algonquin Round Table which also included other writers such as Robert Benchley and George S. Kaufman. Parker was married to Edwin Pond Parker II, a Wall Street broker. Her social life led her to speakeasies and parties where she mingled with Ernest Hemingway and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. Parker began drinking heavily, had a string of affairs, and she attempted suicide three times. Her marriage dissolved. Later, Dorothy married Alan Campbell, an actor. Their marriage was plagued with unhappiness and bickering. The couple divorced and eventually remarried. In the 1930’s, Parker wrote movies after moving to Hollywood, but still continued her literary career. She was involved with many political and social issues. Dorothy Parker was found dead in the Hotel Volney in New York on June 7, 1967. Upon her death, Parker willed her estate which consisted of $20,000 to Martin Luther King, Jr., her final social statement. After Martin Luther King Jr. died, her estate was transferred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Parker’s works often concentrated on women’s issues, spoiled love relationships, and the superficial lives of wealthy society women of the 1920’s. Parker’s writing poked fun at women who depended too much on men for emotional and financial support and at the types of men who took it to their advantage. Her witty poetry became her defense mechanism against the pain and despair she suffered.
Colleen Webster, actress and living history performer will bring to life the witty and wisecracking poet. Ms. Webster is an English professor, award-winning writer and speaker for the Maryland Humanities Council. Her one-woman shows are educational, entertaining, and inspiring for her audiences. Her other performances include Emily Dickinson, Frida Kahlo, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Will you celebrate Women’s History Month with us?