Emily Post (ca. October 27, 1872 – September 25, 1960) was an American author famous for writing about etiquette.
Post was born Emily Price in Baltimore, Maryland, possibly in October 1872 (the precise date is disputed). Her father was the architect Bruce Price and her mother was Josephine (Lee) Price of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. After being educated at home in her early years, Price attended Miss Graham's finishing school in New York after her family moved there.
The New York Times' Dinitia Smith reports, in her review of Laura Claridge's 2008 biography of Post, "Emily was tall, pretty and spoiled. [...] She grew up in a world of grand estates, her life governed by carefully delineated rituals like the cotillion with its complex forms and its dances — the Fan, the Ladies Mocked, Mother Goose — called out in dizzying turns by the dance master.
Price met her future husband, Edwin Main Post, a prominent banker, at a ball in a Fifth Avenue mansion. Following their wedding in 1892 and a honeymoon tour of Europe, they lived in New York's Washington Square. They also had a country cottage, named "Emily Post Cottage", in Tuxedo Park, which was one of four Bruce Price Cottages she inherited from her father. The couple had two sons, Edwin Main Post, Jr. (1893) and Bruce Price Post (1895).
The couple divorced in 1905, because of her husband's affairs with chorus girls and fledgling actresses, which made him the target of blackmail.
When her two sons were old enough to attend boarding school, Post began to write. She produced newspaper articles on architecture and interior design, as well as stories and serials for such magazines as Harper's, Scribner's, and The Century. She wrote the five novels: Flight of a Moth (1904), Purple and Fine Linen (1906), Woven in the Tapestry (1908), The Title Market (1909), and The Eagle's Feather (1910).
Post wrote in various styles, including humorous travel books, early in her career. Post published her first etiquette book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home (1922, frequently referenced as Etiquette) when she was 50; it became a best-seller, and updated versions continued to be popular for decades. After 1931, Post spoke on radio programs and wrote a column on good taste for the Bell Syndicate; it appeared daily in some 200 newspapers after 1932.
In her review of Claridge's 2008 biography of Post, The New York Times' Dinitia Smith explains the keys to Post's popularity:
Such books had always been popular in America: the country’s exotic mix of immigrants and newly rich were eager to fit in with the establishment. Men had to be taught not to blow their noses into their hands or to spit tobacco onto ladies’ backs. Arthur M. Schlesinger, who wrote “Learning How to Behave: A Historical Study of American Etiquette Books” in 1946, said that etiquette books were part of “the leveling-up process of democracy,” an attempt to resolve the conflict between the democratic ideal and the reality of class. But Post’s etiquette books went far beyond those of her predecessors. They read like short-story collections with recurring characters, the Toploftys, the Eminents, the Richan Vulgars, the Gildings and the Kindharts.
In 1946, Post founded The Emily Post Institute, which continues her work.
Post died in 1960 in her New York City apartment, at the age of 87.
Peggy Post, the wife of Emily's great-grandson, is the current spokeswoman for The Emily Post Institute and writes etiquette advice for Good Housekeeping magazine, succeeding her mother-in-law, Elizabeth Post. Peggy Post is the author of more than 12 books.
Peter Post, Emily's great-grandson, writes the Etiquette at Work column for the Sunday edition of The Boston Globe. He is the author of the best-selling book Essential Manners for Men, and of Essential Manners for Couples, and co-authored The Etiquette Advantage in Business, which is in its second edition.
Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D. is Emily Post's great-granddaughter and a director of The Emily Post Institute. She is also the author, with Peggy Post, of two recent illustrated books for children: Emily’s Christmas Gifts (2008) and Emily’s Sharing and Caring Book (2009).
Anna Post is Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear White? Emily Post Answers America’s Top Wedding Questions (2009), as well as Emily Post’s Wedding Parties: Smart Ideas for Stylish Parties, From Engagement to Reception and Everything in Between. She is the wedding etiquette expert for Brides.com and Inside Weddings magazine. Additionally, she speaks at bridal shows and other venues providing wedding etiquette advice and tips.
Lizzie Post, another of Emily's great-great-granddaughters, is the first member of the fourth generation of Posts. Her book is titled How Do You Work This Life Thing? (2007). Lizzie also writes about twenty-something life and etiquette at her blog Not Gonna Lie….
Anna and Lizzie co-authored Great Get-Togethers: Casual Gatherings & Elegant Parties at Home (2010), which presents techniques for hosting social gatherings for any sizes of groups.
Emily Post's name has become synonymous, at least in North America, with proper etiquette and manners. More than half a century after her death, her name is still used in titles of etiquette books. Laura Claridge wrote a book addressing that topic: Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners (2008), the first full-length biography of the author.
Emil Fuchs' portrait of Post (ca.1906) is on display at the Brooklyn Museum.
Frank Tashlin featured Post's caricature (emerging from her etiquette book and scolding England's King Henry VIII about his lack of manners) in his cartoon Have You Got Any Castles? (1938).
In 1950, Pageant named her the second most powerful woman in America, after Eleanor Roosevelt.
On May 28, 1998, the USPS issued a 32¢ stamp featuring Post as part of the Celebrate the Century stamp sheet series.