More Than a Century of “Confidential Chat”

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.”

On This Day...

      …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.

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One Response to More Than a Century of “Confidential Chat”

  1. Ulrike Weywoda says:

    I used to be a member of Chat from early 1970ies to around 1985. Just a few days ago I empied a small suitcase with letters from my parents and frieds I have been saving since 1970 and found to my surprise a large stack of Chat letters I enjoyed reading them again and I wished I had also saved my letters so I could better undstand the answers I had received.
    It is sad that the Chat no longer exist. It was different to what we have available now and were it revived I would be a contributer again.
    My nome back then was “George” and no I am not male and it has nothing to do with George Sands or anyone else famous. Just a name some friends used to call me as they had trouble pronouncing my given name.
    Is there any way the Globe would print a list of noms if I would provide it? It would be great to see if some of them still live in the area and remeber the discussions we used to have. It would also be interesting to see whether or not we have changed our views or mellowed a little over the years.
    I now live in another state but would buy the Globe again just to get the Chat again.