Go back

Dorothy Dix Collection at Austin Peay's library organized, preserved

For 30 years, the countrys most comprehensive materials by and about one of the premier journalists of the 20th century sat unorganized and unused in Woodward Library at Austin Peay State University.

But by the end of June, more than 1,500 pieces of material on advice columnist Dorothy Dix will have been catalogued, conserved and preserved – ready for scholars and enthusiasts to rediscover and enjoy.
For 30 years, the country's most comprehensive materials by and about one of the premier journalists of the 20th century sat unorganized and unused in Woodward Library at Austin Peay State University.

But by the end of June, more than 1,500 pieces of material on advice columnist Dorothy Dix will have been catalogued, conserved and preserved — ready for scholars and enthusiasts to rediscover and enjoy.

“It has been an enormous process, but we're about through,” said Inga Filippo, associate professor and librarian at APSU. “This is the most extensive collection of Dorothy Dix in the country. We have examples of all her writings.”

Dix, a Montgomery County native born as Elizabeth Meriwether, is best known as the first syndicated advice columnist who dispatched tips to more than 60 million lovelorn readers around the world well into the 1940s. She also covered some of the nation's most sensational murder trials at the turn of the century for William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal.

Most of the items in the Dorothy Dix Collection were donated by Dix's nephew, Huntington Patch, in the early 1960s. However, the material rarely was touched until the early 1990s when APSU Librarian Elnor McMahan Corgan began renovating Dix's childhood home, Woodstock, on Old Trenton Road.

Filippo worked with Corgan on the collection. Dr. Ellen Kanervo, professor of journalism at APSU, also helped to organize and gather material for the project.

Over the years, Filippo and Corgan received three grants to pay for preservation supplies, organized a symposium on Dix, researched other archives with Dix material and fielded research requests worldwide from Dix scholars working on master's and doctoral degrees.

Filippo said, as a result of the project, she has developed an interest in Dix's writing.

“I didn't really know much about Dorothy Dix until I started working on this,” Filippo said. “This has become a labor of love.”

After Corgan retired from APSU in 1993, Filippo continued to work on creating a collection from the donated materials. The collection now consists of 14 major categories, each with subfolders. Appropriate material has been deacidified and archived in Mylar polyester film to resist heat and yellowing.

In addition to the numerous newspaper and magazine articles written by and about Dix, the collection includes personal letters, scrapbooks and photographs. Copies of the seven books Dix published — many autographed or from her personal library — also are cataloged and indexed. The “Mirandy” series and “How to Win and Hold a Husband” were among Dix's most popular book titles.

Also, a research guide — measuring about an inch thick — has been prepared, as well as a timeline that highlights significant facts about Dix's personal and professional life.

Recently, Dix's grand niece and nephew, Daisy Meriwether Vandeburgh and Bill Meriwether Jr. of New Orleans, and cousins, Bill and Fletch Coke of Nashville, visited the Dorothy Dix Collection.

“They were impressed because they didn't realize just how important Dorothy Dix was,” Filippo said.

One of the highest paid journalists in the country, Dix wrote her columns until 1949 when she suffered a stroke. She died two years later at age 90.

The Dorothy Dix Collection will be housed in the Dorothy Dix Room in Woodward Library. Although the Dix collection is vast in research, Filippo said she hopes more material about the popular journalist will surface and be added to the library's archives.

“We feel we have a solid collection of her work, but I would like to see it grow,” Filippo said.
The next phase of making the Dorothy Dix Collection accessible to the public is to digitize selections from the archives.

To view these selections on the Web, go to http://digital-library.apsu.edu. Click on the Browse button and then select the Dorothy Dix Collection from the dropdown box at the top of the page. There, articles and photos of Dix can be found.

Links to the research guide and timeline soon will be added on the Dorothy Dix Web page.

For more information, contact Filippo by telephone at (931) 221-7381 or by e-mail at filippoi@apsu.edu. -- Melony Leazer