Dorothy Dix Talks

Day 195 of Colourisation Project – November 18

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Under a sweeping overhaul of question time as promised by Victoria’s State Labor Party, Dorothy Dixer’s will soon be banned if they win the upcoming election on November 29.

Considered a time waster and an abuse of the spirit of parliament, a ‘Dorothy Dixer’ is an Australian expression widely used to refer to a stage-managed question from a member of Parliament to a minister that enables the minister to make an announcement in the form of a reply. Put simply it is a pre-arranged question that has a pre-arranged answer and is a ploy that has been used by both sides of the house in the Australian Parliament for decades.

Dorothy Dix

Photographer Unknown:   Elizabeth Meriwether-Gilmer (Dorothy Dix) – c 1892   – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Australia’s National Dictionary, the Macquarie Dictionary doesn’t mince words in its definition of  a ‘Dorothy Dixer’ – “a question asked in parliament specifically to allow a propagandist reply by a minister.”

Its earliest use dates as far back as 1941 in the Australian Parliament whilst in Australian rhyming slang, a ‘Dorothy’, or ‘Dorothy Dix’ also refers to a hit for six in cricket.

So where does the term come from and how did it creep into the Australian vernacular?

It was an elderly American female journalist on the other side of the globe with a popular syndicated advice column in the first half of the 20th century, that gave rise to the term.

Born this day, November 18, 1861, Dorothy Dix was the nom de plume of American journalist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, America’s most widely read and highest paid journalist at the time of her death in 1951. (Not to be confused with Dorothea Dix, [real name] who was an educator, social reformer and champion of the mentally ill in the later part of the 19th century.) Surpringly the term ‘Dorothy Dixer’ is virtually unknown in the United States.

A forerunner of today’s popular advice columnists, Dix had a reputation for framing her own questions so that she could publish prepared answers. She first used the alliterative pen name ‘Dorothy Dix’ in 1896 for her column in the New Orleans daily newspaper, Picayune; ‘Dorothy’ because she liked the name, and ‘Dix’ in honor of an old family slave named Mr. Dick who had saved the Meriwether family silver during the Civil War.

Her advice column under the title Dorothy Dix Talks appeared for fifty-five years, becoming the world’s longest-running newspaper feature. Syndicated in newspapers all around the world, she had an estimated audience of 60 million readers.

Though she had never stopped writing her advice column, Dix also did a seventeen year stint as a crime reporter for the New York Journal, which involved visits to jails all over the country interviewing murderers.  Throughout her career, Dix published several books among them, Hearts A La Mode (1915),  My Trip Around the World (1924), How to Win and Hold a Husband (1939) and a collection of column material Dorothy Dix Her Book (1926).

Dix died of a heart condition in New Orleans in 1951 at the age of 90.

One of her most popular columns published several times over was her Dictates for a Happy Life, which I wish most Australian politicians would take heed of.


“I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us.”    –    Dorothy Dix


This entry was posted in Australia, Australian Politics, Colorization, Colourisation, History, Photography, USA, Women, Women writers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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