It was after Letitia Baldrige had enlivened formality and heightened glamour at the highest levels of power and commerce that she turned her attention to the state of behavior in the general population. In the etiquette business, this is equivalent to a doctor with a fashionable practice among the rich switching to focusing on epidemics and plagues.
As social secretary at the American embassies in Paris and Rome and at the White House, Ms. Baldrige tactfully credited the respective hostesses—Evangeline Bruce, Clare Boothe Luce, Jacqueline Kennedy—with the success of ceremonial events over which they presided. But she herself was too entertaining (and too tall) to overlook. The freshness that brought piquancy to tradition was engineered by her.
Moving on to the business world, at Tiffany and the Chicago Merchandise Mart, she dealt with the emerging problems arising from the influx of women in corporate positions, changing technology and whatever else came along. In books, columns, speeches and television appearances, she advocated polite feminism, kindness and learning from—and apologizing for—mistakes, often offering up her own as examples. It was an important contribution to civilized society.
Martin writes an etiquette-advice column under the pen name Miss Manners
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