Dorothy Parker
Writer, poet, critic, humorist
Born: August 22, 1893, in Long Branch, New Jersey
Died: June 7, 1967, in New York City
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2014: Arts & Letters

Humor can quickly go out of style, but Dorothy Parker’s wit is timeless, which is why her poems, short stories, and random quips are still celebrated decades after her creative heyday.

Born Dorothy Rothschild at her New York family’s summer home in Long Branch, Parker (who took the surname of her first husband) had a difficult childhood. Her mother died before Parker’s fifth birthday. As an adolescent, Parker is understood to have had stormy relationships with her father, a garment manufacturer, and her stepmother.

Parker grew up in Manhattan, but as a teen attended Miss Dana’s School, a finishing school in Morristown, New Jersey. Her father died by the time she was 20, leaving Parker to fend for herself. She sold her first poem to Vanity Fair at age 21; landed a job as an editorial assistant at Vogue; and two years later became a Vanity Fair staff writer.

Working at Vanity Fair, Parker became acquainted with many of the top writers and wits of the day, including the likes of Robert Benchley, Robert E. Sherwood, the author Edna Ferber and the comedian Harpo Marx. With a revolving cast of others, they began gathering almost daily for lunch at Manhattan’s Algonquin Hotel for what became known as the Algonquin Round Table. The publication of their most memorable comments during the 1920s became the basis for Parker’s national reputation as a formidable humorist.

Throughout much of the 1920s and ‘30s, Parker’s short stories, poems and book reviews appeared in major magazines – notably the New Yorker, following its launch in 1925. Numerous compilations of her writing broadened her reach. She also wrote or co-wrote scripts for Broadway and Hollywood. As a co-writer she received Academy Award screenplay nominations for “A Star is Born” (1937) and “Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman” (1947).

During this period, Parker also became more politically aware and active in social movements. She supported the loyalists in Spain and became an outspoken advocate for civil liberties at home. Her association with some groups that were labelled as Communist, would lead to her blacklisting during the Red Scare in the 1950s.

In addition to her quick wit and literary achievements, Parker was known for her volatile personal life. She divorced her first husband, a Wall Street stockbroker, in 1928. She had a 30-year relationship with her second husband, whom she married, divorced, remarried and separated from until his drug overdose death in 1963. Parker herself was bedeviled by alcohol abuse. She largely disappeared from public life in her later years.

As a final testament to her commitment to social causes, Parker willed her estate to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Upon his death one year after Parker’s, her estate went to the NAACP, per her wishes. The civil-rights organization honored Parker by burying her ashes in a memorial garden at its headquarters in Maryland. Parker’s remains have since been reinterred at a family plot in the Bronx.

Intro/Acceptance Video