Women Who Rock: Dorothy Parker

March is National Women’s History Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a lady we admire each weekday.

DOROTHY PARKER (1893-1967)

Renowned writer Dorothy Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild in Long Branch, N.J.. Her mother died shortly after her birth, leaving her to be raised by her father and stepmother, both of whom she grew to detest. Her unhappiness at home contributed largely to the literary work she would soon produce.

Parker began her career as a poet, writing for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines. It was at this time that she came into her own, writing comic analyses of the hypocrisies of modern life. After being terminated from these positions due to her acerbic writings, she went to work as an editor for the newly founded New Yorker magazine. There she published poems that comically depicted her own failed romances.
In 1926, Parker published her first collection of poems entitled Enough Rope, which sold 47,000 copies and was an immediate success. After her divorce from her first husband, Parker was clouded in despair and thoughts of suicide, topics that she freely wrote about. In her popular poem “Resume,” she wrote:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Toward the end of her life, Dorothy Parker became deeply involved in the civil rights and anti-fascist movements in America. Through her suicide attempts, broken marriages, love affairs and heartache, Dorothy Parker captured her pain in her witty poems, short stories, and Hollywood scripts. She died of a heart attack in 1967 at age 73.

Further reading and watching:

  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  • Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? by Marion Meade
  • A Journey into Dorothy Parker’s New York by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick
  • The Algonquin Wits: Bon Mots, Wisecracks, Epigrams and Gags edited by Robert E. Drennan
  • Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Campbell Scott, and Matthew Broderick
  • [Photo: AP]