In this age of social media where dialogue and exchange between and among individuals is nearly instantaneous and global, it is important to note that the Boston Globe’s ”Housekeepers Column” was first published on this day – May 11, 1884. The column evolved by 1922 into the iconic and widely read “Confidential Chat.” Before connections in cyberspace, it was the daily newspaper that was a vehicle of communication. For New England women – letters seeking information, sharing ideas and opinions and giving advice and support appeared in the “Confidential Chat.” Most writers were anonymous using “handles” like “Dorchester Dottie” – “Candy Cane” and “Bosc Pear.” Throughout the decades, writers reflected the times – early in the century it was a woman’s right to vote; in the 1930s the anguish of unemployment and poverty; in the 1940s they shared ideas on how women on the homefront could help with the war effort; in the 1950s letters focused on the new ideals of family life and femininity; in the 1960s it was social unrest; by the 1970s, 1980s it was the sexual and technical revolutions – but always it was the changing times mixed with the traditional search for knitting directions, a lost recipe and suggestions for potty training. The folio of “Confidential Chats” must be a social historian’s dream!
When the Globe announced that it would no longer publish “Confidential Chat” after January 12, 2006, Ombudsman Richard Chacon wrote that he understood “Chat” readers’ “sadness and frustration at the sudden loss of an old friend,” but he observed that “in this age of electronic message boards, chat rooms, and instant messaging, ‘Confidential Chat’ may have finally reached its sad but inevitable end.”
…in 1884, The Boston Globe published the first “Housekeepers Column,” known since 1922 as “Confidential Chat.” Although many Globe reporters at first looked with disdain on a column in which readers — the vast majority of them female — shared recipes, advice, and support, “Confidential Chat” became an institution at the paper, having been published continuously for over 110 years. Writing under playful pen names such as “Dorchester Dottie,” readers ask each other for help on everything from cooking and stain removal to child rearing and sexual mores. Many “Confidential Chat” readers consider themselves to be members of a special club. Some note proudly that they were the third generation of “Chat” readers — and writers — in their family.
Read more here at MassMoments.org.