About Letitia Baldrige ("Doyenne of Decorum")
Letitia Baldrige (February 9, 1926 – October 29, 2012) was an American etiquette expert and public relations executive who was most famous for serving as Jacqueline Kennedy's Social Secretary.
Known as the "Doyenne of Decorum", she wrote a newspaper column, ran her own PR firm, and, along with updating Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, she published twenty books and appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and the cover of Time Magazine.
Letitia Baldrige was born February 9, 1926 in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, the youngest child of Republican Congressman Howard Malcolm Baldrige and his wife, Regina (née Connell). Her brother was Howard Malcolm Baldrige, Jr., the initial Secretary of Commerce during the Ronald Reagan administration . She attended Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT, where she met Jacqueline Bouvier, the future First Lady. The two also attended Vassar College together, from which Baldrige graduated in 1946 with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
After first being denied a position and told to improve her secretarial skills, she reapplied and was hired by the State Department as social secretary to David K.E. Bruce, US ambassador to France. After three years she would be appointed secretary in Rome to the American ambassador to Italy, Clare Boothe Luce, followed by a position as director of public relations for the jeweller Tiffany & Co.
Although then a registered Republican, in 1960 she was invited to work for the Kennedy campaign in Massachusetts once he secured the Democratic presidential nomination, going on to work officially for the First Lady after his victory. Saying she "had had it" with the long days in Washington and serving the administration on overseas trips, she resigned early in 1963, to return briefly to aid the First Lady after her husband's assassination in November of that year.
After the Kennedy White House
She served on the board of directors of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. She also did significant charity work with Jane Goodall to help fundraise for the preservation of habitats for wild chimpanzees.
In 1964, the year after marrying her husband Robert Hollensteiner, whom she met while working for a Kennedy family firm, she founded her own PR business, Letitia Baldrige Enterprises, Chicago. Earning the nickname the "Doyenne of Decorum" with a newspaper column and a string of successful books, in 1978 she appeared on the November 28th cover of Time Magazine.
Baldrige died of cardiac complications at a nursing facility in Bethesda, Maryland on October 29, 2012. At an imposing 6ft 1in in height, Baldrige said her focus was always on simple good manners, not a set of strict rules. She had a self-deprecating reputation, fond of telling embarrassing anecdotes about her own socially awkward behavior, such as looking up in a 1947 garden party at Buckingham Palace to see the man she had just tripped was none other than Winston Churchill. She had continued working into late life, publishing books in every decade from the 1950's, through the internet and cell phone revolution until her last in 2007, Taste: Acquiring What Money Can't Buy.
Bachelor's in Psychology, Vassar College
Graduate studies, Université de Genève, Switzerland
Personal Social Secretary to David K. E. Bruce, U.S. Ambassador, Paris
Intelligence Officer, American Embassy, Paris
Assistant to Clare Boothe Luce, U.S. Ambassador, Rome
Director, Public Relations, Tiffany & Co.
Social Secretary and Chief of Staff for Jacqueline Kennedy
President, Letitia Baldrige Enterprises, Chicago
Director, Consumer Affairs, Burlington Industries
President, Letitia Baldrige Enterprises, New York City
Baldrige & Lewris, Washington DC
The honor recognized her effort to appear on the Inman Literacy Foundation Lecture Series.