The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free

Category: Book
By (author): Bren, Paulina
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Historical
  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Women
  HISTORY / General
  HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: March 2022
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 336
Size: 8.37in x 5.50in x 0.84in
Our Price:
$ 25.99
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the "captivating portrait" (The Wall Street Journal) of New York's most famous residential hotel-The Barbizon-and the remarkable women who lived there.

Welcome to New York's legendary hotel for women.

Liberated from home and hearth by World War I, politically enfranchised and ready to work, women arrived to take their place in the dazzling new skyscrapers of Manhattan. But they did not want to stay in uncomfortable boarding houses. They wanted what men already had-exclusive residential hotels with maid service, workout rooms, and private dining.

Built in 1927, at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was designed as a luxurious safe haven for the "Modern Woman" hoping for a career in the arts. Over time, it became the place to stay for any ambitious young woman hoping for fame and fortune. Sylvia Plath fictionalized her time there in The Bell Jar, and, over the years, it's almost 700 tiny rooms with matching floral curtains and bedspreads housed, among many others, Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith; and writers Joan Didion, Gael Greene, Diane Johnson, Meg Wolitzer. Mademoiselle magazine boarded its summer interns there, as did Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School its students and the Ford Modeling Agency its young models. Before the hotel's residents were household names, they were young women arriving at the Barbizon with a suitcase and a dream.

Not everyone who passed through the Barbizon's doors was destined for success-for some, it was a story of dashed hopes-but until 1981, when men were finally let in, the Barbizon offered its residents a room of their own and a life without family obligations. It gave women a chance to remake themselves however they pleased; it was the hotel that set them free. No place had existed like it before or has since.

"Poignant and intriguing" (The New Republic), The Barbizon weaves together a tale that has, until now, never been told. It is both a vivid portrait of the lives of these young women looking for something more and a "brilliant many-layered social history of women's ambition and a rapidly changing New York through the 20th century" (The Guardian).
Review Quote*"More than a biography of a building, the book is an absorbing history of labor and women's rights in one of the country's largest cities, and also of the places that those women left behind to chase their dreams."
Review Quote*"A captivating history... Bren's book is really about the changing cultural perceptions of women's ambition throughout the last century, set against the backdrop of that most famous theater of aspiration, New York City....Bren draws on an impressive amount of archival research, and pays tender attention to each of the women she profiles."
Review Quote*"Among the handful of iconic hotels closely entwined with New York's cultural history, the Barbizon is perhaps less widely known than the Plaza, Algonquin or Waldorf Astoria. But as Paulina Bren's beguiling new book makes clear, its place in the city's storied past is no less deserving...In this captivating portrait, the hotel comes alive again as an enchanted site of a bygone era."
Review Quote*"Fascinating...If you love the glimpses of the long-ago New York City of Midge Maisel and Peggy "Mad Men" Olson, you will want to read this true tale of a bygone New York City."
Review Quote*"A lively history...The Barbizon is a story as much about 20th-century women seizing agency, in fits and starts, as it is about a hotel, and Bren tells it skillfully."
Review Quote*"The first history of the hotel and the ambitious women who stayed there...poignant and intriguing."
Review Quote*"While Bren's book is packed with juicy midcentury gossip, it's also full of lesser-known characters who light up the pages...It all serves as a potent reminder of how important a little space can be in the quest for freedom."
Review Quote*"With enough smoldering glamour to make Mad Men look dreary…Bren's captivating book tells the story of this women's residential hotel, from its construction in 1927 on Manhattan's 140 East 63rd Street, to its eventual conversion into multimillion-dollar condominiums in 2007. But it is also a brilliant many-layered social history of women's ambition and a rapidly changing New York throughout the 20th century."
Review Quote*"Bren elegantly weaves interviews with former residents and archival research with context on the social and political conditions that limited midcentury women."