Born 22 January 1873, Washington, D.C.; died 28 November 1945, Washington, D.C.
Also wrote under: Beatrice Fairfax
Daughter of Michael Charles and Elizabeth Barrett Manning; married Herman Edward Gasch, 1905
The daughter of distinguished English parents, Marie Manning was educated in private schools in New York City and London but grew so alarmingly tall and gangling in her teens that her father sent her to a western ranch to build strength and poise. This ranch was later to provide the setting for her most successful novel.
Manning started in 1893 as a cub reporter for the New York World and by 1897 was working for the more prestigious New York Evening Journal, where her famous advice column, "Beatrice Fairfax," first appeared in 1898. The column gained immediate success throughout New York State and soon became a national catchword.
In 1905, Manning left a thriving career to marry a real estate dealer and raise their two sons. For nearly twenty-five years Manning devoted herself to her family, although she remained active in fighting for women's rights. For financial reasons Manning resumed her still-popular column in 1929, and later also worked for International News Service.
Manning's first literary work, a romantic adventure novel, Lord Alingham, Bankrupt (1902), was a commercial and critical failure, but her second novel, Judith of the Plains (1903), fared better, going into two printings and receiving serious praise from reviewers. Here Manning creates a strong heroine, Judith Rodney. The story, set in a Wyoming desert that "lies white and palpitating beneath the noonday glare," follows Judith's battle to save her brother from an unjust death sentence, as well as her courage and fire. At one point, Judith wonders whether in marriage "women were dogs, that men should play with them in idle moods, caress them, and then fling them out for other toys." Only when she knows she is in control of her own life does Judith accept an offer of marriage from the man she loves. The book presents a strong, clear picture of an idealized woman and perceptive descriptions of both characters and setting.
Problems of Love and Marriage (1931) and Personal Reply (1943) are collections of letters and answers compiled from Manning's "Beatrice Fairfax" column. The pre-Depression letters deal largely with the love dilemmas of young girls, whereas the post-Depression correspondence comes from men and women who are either contemplating divorce or having affairs. Manning's advice was generally to dry your eyes, roll up your sleeves, believe in yourself, and "dig for a practical solution."
Ladies Now and Then (1944), Manning's autobiography, concentrates on her early days as reporter and columnist for the Evening Journal and tells little of her personal life. It provides insight into the struggles and sacrifices of all women journalists who were at that time trying to break out of the "latest society divorce scandal" and into the real world of serious reporting. There are many tongue-in-cheek accounts of Manning's interviews with celebrities from William Jennings Bryan to Eleanor Roosevelt. Manning ends her life study reflectively, saying that "as an inconspicuous private who helped to fight the good fight for women" she feels a glow of pride whenever she reads of any woman's accomplishment.
Although most of Manning's work is mediocre as literature, she tried, within the limits of popular fiction, to create women who were strong, sometimes unconventional, and yet beloved.
Ross, I., Ladies of the Press: The Story of Women in Journalism by an Insider (1974).
CB. NAW. Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States.
NYT (30 Nov. 1945).
—WENDY J. HENNING