Mary Elizabeth Young, 80, who as Mary Haworth wrote a thoughtful, serious and highly popular column of advice on domestic and romantic problems that was one of the best read features in The Washington Post from the 1930s through the 1960s, died of cancer yesterday at Mount Vernon Hospital.
Although the so-called advice-to-the-lovelorn column had long been a staple of American journalism, Miss Haworth's work was distinguished by the sincere concern she evinced for the problems of her readers and by the range of professional experts she consulted in an effort to find solutions for them.
Selected from among The Post's reporters by publisher Eugene Meyer in the 1930s to conduct an advice column that would employ in particular the insights of psychology and psychiatry, Miss Haworth proved outstandingly successful, and her work exemplified and enhanced the new image and identity Meyer was creating for the newspaper.
The column began as "This Business of Living," and in 1936 was dubbed "Mary Haworth's Mail" after letters began arriving and Miss Haworth began responding in print.
"She didn't depend on her instinct," in answering readers' questions, which began to arrive in floods and torrents, said one editor who had worked with her. "She got expert help, which she'd then pass along to the questioner."
Besides those in the mental health fields, Miss Haworth sought the insights of a wide range of professionals, and was oriented in particular toward religion and the clergy.
Unassuming and unobtrusive personally, Miss Haworth saw her pseudonym become a household word in Washington, at least in part as a result of such actions as her reported efforts to answer personally those letters she could not answer in her column, and to seek out the particular agencies or individuals who could help her correspondents in their difficulties.
"When someone was in trouble, she would talk to the social agency that had some responsibility . . . " another editor said. This concern "came through" in her columns, he added, contributing to what he described as her extraordinary popularity here.
"They (the audience) want to know if you really do help your anxious correspondents; whether you've ever seen any of the people who write you; and whether they ever report back on the results of the advice you give," Miss Haworth said in one of the many talks she was called on to give here.
"They want to know how you like your work; and whether you practice what you preach and believe what you say.
"For myself," Miss Haworth went on,"the blanket answer to these questions is -- yes."
She said that "persons write me one two and three or more years later to say that the advice given worked in their case. I have seen many of the persons who have written me, and they might be anybody's next door neighbor -- or even his wife, sweetheart, roommate or best friend.
"I find a growing sense of satisfaction in the work, largely because of the kindly attitude of the readers toward the things I try to do. I do believe absolutely everything I say; and as for 'practicing what I preach,' I think it's easier for all of us to see what's to be done than it is to do it. I try to do as I say, as best I can."
Miss Haworth was regarded as a champion of youth, received many honors and awards, was once voted their favorite columnist by the Midshipmen at Annapolis, and for many years enjoyed nationwide syndication in hundreds of newspapers outside of Washington.
Miss Haworth was born in Riverside, Ohio, and grew up in Wilmington, Ohio. She attended Wilmington College there for two years and worked for two Ohio newspapers before coming to Washington.
Her marriage to William Young ended in divorce.
Survivors include two daughters, Mary Elizabeth Lynch, of Hartville, Ohio, and Amelia Manning of Alexandria; three sisters, Rosanne Redfern of McLean and Esther Lyons and Isabelle Gumm, both of Wilmington and 11 grandchildren.