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What Would Mrs. Astor Do? Book Reading and Signing with Cecelia Tichi

Wednesday, March 13, 2019,

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  • Location: Central & Divinity Libraries • 419 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: Special Collections Reading Room

Cecelia Tichi found an “armload” of century-old etiquette manuals from the Gilded Age at the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries for her latest book project, What Would Mrs. Astor Do? The Essential Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age (New York University Press, 2018).

Tichi, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and professor of American Studies, will discuss the many rules for making it into the top tier of late-19th-century high society during a reading and discussion March 13 in the library’s Special Collections.

The free event, which will include a book-signing and refreshments, will be from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

 Tichi takes the reader through the various do’s and don’ts that were dictated by Mrs. Astor for those aspiring to be on her list: “A lady will not cross a ballroom unattended,” “Remember that all slang is vulgar,” and “Never indicate that you notice anything unpleasant in the food.”

 In addition to the etiquette manuals that Tichi studied, she also found memoirs at the library that were written in later life by some of Mrs. Astor’s 400. “I won’t say they were ‘tell-all’ books, but they expressed regret for the 400’s obliviousness to the lives of the poor and the workers who ought to have had a share in their employers’ excellent fortune,” Tichi said.