Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th-century urban foibles.
From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in such venues as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Following the breakup of the circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist.
Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a "wisecracker". Nevertheless, her literary output and reputation for her sharp wit have endured.
Also known as Dot or Dottie, Parker was born Dorothy Rothschild to Jacob Henry and Eliza Annie Rothschild (née Marston) at 732 Ocean Avenue in the West End village of Long Branch, New Jersey, where her parents had a summer beach cottage. Dorothy's mother was of Scottish descent, and her father was of German Jewish descent. Parker wrote in her essay "My Hometown" that her parents got her back to their Manhattan apartment shortly after Labor Day so she could be called a true New Yorker. Her mother died in West End in July 1898, when Parker was a month shy of turning five. Her father remarried in 1900 to a woman named Eleanor Francis Lewis. Parker hated her father and stepmother, accusing her father of being physically abusive and refusing to call Eleanor either "mother" or "stepmother", instead referring to her as "the housekeeper". She grew up on the Upper West Side and attended a Roman Catholic elementary school at the Convent of the Blessed Sacrament on West 79th Street with sister Helen, despite having a Jewish father and Protestant stepmother. (Mercedes de Acosta was a classmate.) Parker once joked that she was asked to leave following her characterization of the Immaculate Conception as "spontaneous combustion". Her stepmother died in 1903, when Parker was nine. Parker later went to Miss Dana's School, a finishing school in Morristown, New Jersey. She graduated from Miss Dana's School in 1911, at the age of 18. Following her father's death in 1913, she played piano at a dancing school to earn a living while she worked on her verse.
She sold her first poem to Vanity Fair magazine in 1914 and some months later was hired as an editorial assistant for another Condé Nast magazine, Vogue. She moved to Vanity Fair as a staff writer after two years at Vogue.
In 1917, she met and married a Wall Street stockbroker, Edwin Pond Parker II (1893–1933), but they were separated by his army service in World War I. She had ambivalent feelings about her Jewish heritage given the strong antisemitism of that era and joked that she married to escape her name.
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