Questions were answered by "Beatrice Fairfax," originally Marie Manning and later other writers.
"Hen coop" or "hen house" was slang for a women's residence. It is not clear if all women's pages were called "hen coops," or just the section of The Evening Journal.
Wikipedia: Marie Manning
Marie Manning (January 22, 1872—November 28, 1945) was a newspaper columnist and novelist in the early 20th century. She wrote the first newspaper advice column, Dear Beatrice Fairfax, in 1898, the precursor to modern versions such as Dear Abby and Ann Landers.
Manning began writing as a columnist for the New York World in 1896 at the "space rate" of $5 per week. After being granted an exclusive interview with the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, she was promoted to permanent staff and her salary was raised to $30 per week. When the paper's Editor moved to the New York Evening Journal in 1898, she followed at his invitation. There she collaborated with two other women to create a women's page entitled the "Hen Coop".
Dear Beatrice Fairfax
During the same year, the Hen Coop received three letters from readers who sought advice about personal situations in their lives. Manning suggested a new column exclusively used for giving personal advice. The column was named Dear Beatrice Fairfax at her suggestion, named after Dante's Beatrice and her own family's country home in Fairfax County, Virginia. The column began on July 20, 1898 as the first advice column in the United States.
Her advice was an immediate success, and received so many letters that the United States Post Office soon refused delivery of them and the Journal has to retrieve the letters themselves. Manning's common sense advice was imitated nationwide thanks to its tremendous popularity. However, Manning's efforts went largely unrewarded and her payrate and status remained low at the paper. She eventually resigned.
30 November 1945, New York (NY) Times, pg. 23:
Mrs. H.E. Gasch, 70, Originated
Famed Advice to the Lovelorn
Under Nom de Plume in 1898
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 -- Mrs. Marie Manning Gasch, who formerly for years wrote an advice-to-the-loverlorn column in The New York Evening Journal under the name Beatrice Fairfax, died yesterday of a heart attack at her home here.
Her common sense motto was: "Dry your eyes, roll up your sleeves and dig for a practical solution."
Miss Manning next moved to The Evening Journal, where in 1898, with two other women reporters, she was penned in an obscure corner, known as the Hen Coop. They did "the women's angle" on murder and celebrities.
One day Mr. Brisbane, then The Journal's editor, brought to the Hen Coop three letters, each seeking advice on a tragic personal problem. He wanted them answered on the women's page. Miss Manning suggested a separate department to answer such letters. Mr. Brisbane approved the idea, and thus on July 20, 1898, Miss Manning made her debut as Beatrice Fairfax, a name she compounded out of Dante's Beata Beatrix and of Fairfax County, Va., where the Manning family owned "a run-down place of sorts."
New York City • Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Wednesday, May 31, 2006 • Permalink