Dorothy Parker, born in 1893, was a renowned American poet, short story writer, critic, and satirist of the 20th century. Her early career began at Vogue, and she later became a key figure of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of notable New York City writers and intellectuals.
Parker was famed for her sharp wit, keen observations, and a cynical yet expressive style. Her works, including “Enough Rope” and “Big Blonde,” were acclaimed for their depth of emotion and precision.
She was also an activist, notably involved in founding the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. Despite personal and professional challenges in her later life, Parker’s legacy remains influential, marked by her biting humor and timeless relevance. She left her estate to Martin Luther King Jr. and, subsequently, to the NAACP, underlining her commitment to civil rights.
Dorothy Parker Quotes
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
Early Life and Education
Dorothy Parker, born as Dorothy Rothschild on August 22, 1893, in Long Branch, New Jersey, grew up to be one of the most acclaimed American poets, short story writers, critics, and satirists of the 20th century. Parker lost her mother at a young age, and her father subsequently remarried. The challenging relationship with her stepmother shaped much of her early life and work.
Parker was educated at the Blessed Sacrament Convent in New York. However, she never graduated high school, leaving to help support her family at just 14. Despite her lack of formal education, she proved herself a gifted writer and avid reader, pursuits that laid the groundwork for her future career.
Early Career and The Algonquin Round Table
In 1917, Parker began her literary career at Vogue magazine, writing captions for fashion photographs. She was quickly promoted and started working for Vanity Fair as a staff writer and theater critic, becoming famous for her sharp wit and satirical style.
Parker was one of the founding members of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of New York City writers, critics, actors, and wits. Gathering initially as part of a practical joke, members of the “Vicious Circle” lunched at the Algonquin Hotel daily from 1919 until roughly 1929. This group played a significant role in shaping Parker’s career and reputation as a sharp-tongued wit.
Writing Style and Major Works
Parker’s literary output was broad and diverse. She wrote poems, short stories, plays, and essays. Her writing was characterized by a sharp wit and a keen observation of the human condition. She was particularly noted for her cynicism and ability to express complex emotions succinctly.
Her first collection of poetry, “Enough Rope,” was published in 1926 and was a bestseller. Other significant works include “Sunset Gun” and “Death and Taxes.” Her short stories, such as “Big Blonde,” won the O. Henry Award in 1929. Throughout her career, Parker wrote for publications like The New Yorker and Esquire, cementing her reputation as a leading literary figure.
Activism and Later Life
In addition to her literary contributions, Parker was also a vocal activist. She was involved in founding the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League in 1936, which led to her being blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy era.
Parker was twice married to Alan Campbell, a screenwriter, and they moved to Hollywood, where they became successful screenwriters. However, her later years were marked by several personal and professional challenges, including a decline in her writing output, alcoholism, and financial difficulties.
Dorothy Parker died on June 7, 1967, leaving her estate to Martin Luther King Jr. and, following his death, to the NAACP, reflecting her lifelong commitment to civil rights.
Parker’s legacy is one of biting humor and timeless relevance. Her poetry and prose continue to be celebrated for their wit, precision, and deeply-felt emotion. The essence of her work often lay in its ability to make readers laugh while quietly breaking their hearts. Today, Dorothy Parker remains an icon of wit and a figurehead for sharp-tongued women everywhere.