This is the 23rd in a series of articles about winners of the NSNC’s annual Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award.
By Dave Astor
Miss Manners Judith Martin
Photo Kay Chernush
Judith “Miss Manners” Martin received the 2015 Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award at our conference in Indianapolis, but I didn’t take notes during her acceptance speech. Bad manners by me? Sort of. Good manners by her? Yup, after being honored, she visited the NSNC hospitality suite with her family and was gracious to all.
Martin’s “Miss Manners” advice column — which dates back to 1978 and is syndicated to 200-plus clients — covers everything from table-arrangement and party questions to the workplace, romance, family, child-rearing, death etiquette, greed, social issues, and civility and courtesy in general.
In an interview with The American Enterprise some years ago, Martin said: “When I started writing my newspaper column, people thought that etiquette was some kind of silly antiquated torture device used by people who had nothing better to do than humiliate others. The idea that in order to have a pleasant community we need some system that controls behavior has been many years in coming.”
Martin was asked if she felt optimistic or pessimistic about Americans becoming more etiquette-conscious.
“Well, if I weren’t optimistic, perhaps foolishly so, I couldn’t go on with this, could I? If I may say so, it took me almost 25 years, but I put America back onto the way of thinking that etiquette is important in our lives. You may not see it practiced everywhere, but people recognize it. I consider that a big achievement.”
The columnist — a Washington, DC, native who went on to graduate from Wellesley College — also spent 25 years as a reporter, feature writer, and critic for The Washington Post, where she was one of the original members of that newspaper’s “Style” and “Weekend” sections. She has also authored approximately 20 books, including two novels.
Martin was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2005.
Since 2013, the 1938-born Martin has collaborated on her often-witty column with her children Jacobina and Nicholas.