Dorothy Parker: The Story Behind The Witty Woman
Dorothy Parker, the critic, poet, and short story writer who was noted for her sharp wit, however, as is often noted of witty people, had a childhood that was pretty far from happy. She described herself as “a plain disagreeable child with stringy hair and a yen to write poetry.” She was born two months premature in 1893 in New Jersey, and by the time she was five, her mother had died. Her father remarried, but Parker despised her stepmother. Before his death in 1913, he had been a successful garment manufacturer, but the business was failing by the time he died. With both her parents dead, she was left to support herself, first as a pianist in a dancing school, and then in the world of New York magazine publishing.
She got her break with a poem, “Any Porch,” which she sent to Frank Crowninshield, the editor at Vanity Fair. She was first hired as the caption writer at Vogue, but she became a staff writer for Vanity Fair, and eventually became the drama critic for Vanity Fair. However, she lost her job in 1920 because she made a wisecrack about the actress Billie Burke (the wife of one of the magazine’s advertisers).