[Ads-l] "Ms." interdatings (1921-22)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 17 17:41:55 UTC 2015

Ben: Here is a link to a slightly earlier interdating.

Date: July 25, 1921
Newspaper: Boston Post
Newspaper Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Article: The Observant Citizen
Quote Page 10


The Boston newspaper points to an earlier source.

[Acknowledgment info]
The following clever solution of the problem appears in a publication
entitled "We Are Here," edited by Leo Burnett, advertising manager of
the La Fayette Motors:
[End acknowledgement]


On Thu, Dec 17, 2015 at 9:56 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      "Ms." interdatings (1921-22)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The earliest known proposal for "Ms." as a title for women regardless
> of marital status was made in the Springfield (Mass.) Republican of
> Nov. 10, 1901.
> http://www.vocabulary.com/articles/wordroutes/hunting-the-elusive-first-ms/
> https://illinois.edu/blog/view/25/6748
> But after that item (which circulated in many newspapers at the time),
> we hadn't come across anything else on "Ms." until a 1932 letter to
> the New York Times (using the variant "M's") and Mario Pei's _The
> Story of Language_ in 1949. Dennis Baron recently shared an example he
> found from 1922, and that led me to find some other cites from the
> early '20s that help fill in the gaps a bit.
> The first one is from 1921, in a bit of advertorial content from the
> Cleveland department store William Taylor & Son:
> ---
> _Plain Dealer_ (Cleveland), Aug. 3, 1921, p. 10 (advt.)
> "Taylor Store News," published by Wm. Taylor Son & Co.
> Ann Sawyer says:
> An advertising agency wondered how it would address letters to a list
> of women whose names bore no indication as to whether they were "Miss"
> or "Mrs." The No-Less-Than-Authority, the President of Harvard,
> informed them that it is quite correct if in doubt, to use the prefix
> "Ms."
> ... [signed] Ann Sawyer, Taylor Personal Service Bureau, East Gallery
> ---
> I'm not sure how the president of Harvard fits into this (at the time
> it was Abbott Lawrence Lowell), but perhaps he recalled the
> Springfield Republican item from twenty years earlier.
> Next up is a 1922 syndicated column by Lucy Jeanne Price:
> ---
> http://newspaperarchive.com/us/texas/brownsville/brownsville-herald/1922/12-04/page-4
> Brownsville (Texas) Daily Herald, Dec. 4, 1922, p. 4, col. 2
> "New York Letter" by Lucy Jeanne Price
> It is a constant complaint that women no longer add "Miss" or "Mrs."
> before their names, and that consequently in writing a business letter
> to a strange woman, one never knows how to address her. One New York
> firm has solved the problem by the ingenious adoption of a telescoped
> prefix, "Ms." This designates equally well a matron or a maid, and
> while it may not look impressive, it is going to save much indignation
> on the part of those who would be wrongly addressed and who always
> blame the other person for not knowing their matrimonial state.
> ---
> Ms. Price's column appeared in most papers as "New York Letter,"
> although in the below example it's titled "On Broadway" (which Walter
> Winchell would later use for his column).
> http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78001466/1922-12-04/ed-1/seq-8/
> Palatka (Fla.) Daily News, Dec. 4, 1922, p. 8, col. 2
> Shortly thereafter was an item credited by several papers to the
> Pittsburgh Dispatch (the Dispatch from 1922 is not yet digitized
> AFAIK, but Chronicling America should get to it eventually).
> ---
> Wall Street Journal, Dec. 8, 1922, p. 2, col. 3
> One large New York firm that uses mailing lists for circularization
> found it difficult to decide what prefix to place before a woman's
> name when there was nothing to indicate whether she was married. Mary
> Josephine Smith, for instance, could conceivably be either a
> bobbed-haired flapper or a buxom matron of 50. It was a tossup whether
> to address her as "Miss" or "Mrs," and if the guess proved wrong she
> became indignant.
> Finally a bright chap suggested the prefix "Ms." As a hedging scheme
> this worked fine. The clerk who made the suggestion received a raise.
> --Pittsburgh Dispatch.
> ---
> The item that Dennis found is a further elaboration on this, appended
> to a discussion about the lack of a gender-neutral third-person
> singular pronoun in English:
> ---
> Arizona Republican, Dec. 22, 1922, p. 4, col. 2
> "Our Changing Language"
> Perhaps too there will come along soon as ingenious an individual as a
> young clerk of a large New York firm that used mailing lists for
> circularization purposes and found it difficult to decide what prefix
> to use before a woman's name when there was nothing to indicate
> whether she was married or single.
> Sarah Ann Jones might be a staid married woman, an aged and
> respectable spinster, or a short-skirted, bobbed-haired flapper. There
> was no way to decide except by the flipping of a coin, heads for
> "Mrs." and tails for "Miss." The chances were just as even that the
> addressee would be affronted.
> This bright young clerk solved the difficulty in so simple a way that
> it is a wonder that nobody ever thought of it before -- by a
> compromise, the means of settling difficult and disputed points ever
> since the world began. He used the prefix "Ms.," equally applicable to
> married and single ladies. His salary was raised in consequence.
> ---
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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