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From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the first history 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 Manha From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the first history 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 daily maid service, cultural programs, workout rooms, and private dining. Built in 1927 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was intended as a safe haven for the “Modern Woman” seeking a career in the arts. 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, its almost 700 tiny rooms with matching floral curtains and bedspreads housed Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Phylicia Rashad, and Cybill Shepherd; writers Joan Didion, Diane Johnson, Gael Greene, and Meg Wolitzer; and many more. 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 or expectations. 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. Beautifully written and impeccably researched, 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 who came to New York looking for something more, and an epic history of women’s ambition.


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From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the first history 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 Manha From award-winning author Paulina Bren comes the first history 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 daily maid service, cultural programs, workout rooms, and private dining. Built in 1927 at the height of the Roaring Twenties, the Barbizon Hotel was intended as a safe haven for the “Modern Woman” seeking a career in the arts. 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, its almost 700 tiny rooms with matching floral curtains and bedspreads housed Titanic survivor Molly Brown; actresses Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Phylicia Rashad, and Cybill Shepherd; writers Joan Didion, Diane Johnson, Gael Greene, and Meg Wolitzer; and many more. 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 or expectations. 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. Beautifully written and impeccably researched, 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 who came to New York looking for something more, and an epic history of women’s ambition.

30 review for The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marialyce

    What a wonderfully researched and informative book! I enjoyed reading about the Barbizon and the people who stayed there. A a former New Yorker, this building truly became a landmark in the women's march to freeing themselves and being able to join the workforce. It became what women wanted, a place to live, where they were treated well and received services that men had formerly only received, a residential hotel. Through its doors passed the famous, names such as Sylvia Plath, Rita Hayworth, Gr What a wonderfully researched and informative book! I enjoyed reading about the Barbizon and the people who stayed there. A a former New Yorker, this building truly became a landmark in the women's march to freeing themselves and being able to join the workforce. It became what women wanted, a place to live, where they were treated well and received services that men had formerly only received, a residential hotel. Through its doors passed the famous, names such as Sylvia Plath, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly to name a few. It afforded women that independence they were so looking for, a place where they could discover their true selves away from the prying eyes and constraints of family. Such a well done interesting book which I definitely recommend most highly! Thank you for an advanced copy of this story Edelweiss! This book is due to be published on March 2, 2021.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    The rules were clear, and the expectations sky-high: Women should be virgins, but not prudes. Women should go to college, pursue a certain type of career, and then give it up to get married. And above all, living with these contradictions should not make them confused, angry, or worse, depressed. They should not take a bottle of pills and try to forget. When I woke up on New Year's Day 2021, checked my email, and learned I had won an ARC of The Barbizon in a Goodreads giveaway, I literally clappe The rules were clear, and the expectations sky-high: Women should be virgins, but not prudes. Women should go to college, pursue a certain type of career, and then give it up to get married. And above all, living with these contradictions should not make them confused, angry, or worse, depressed. They should not take a bottle of pills and try to forget. When I woke up on New Year's Day 2021, checked my email, and learned I had won an ARC of The Barbizon in a Goodreads giveaway, I literally clapped my hands with glee. For years I'd been fascinated by Mademoiselle magazine's college guest editor program, which had welcomed such soon-to-be-luminaries as Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion and put them all up at the Barbizon for the summer. I figured any history of the hotel would also be a history of the Mademoiselle program, and I was right. Built in 1927, the Barbizon was a single-room-occupancy long-term hotel for women, abundant with amenities and restricting men to the lobby. Many women who came to New York City to make their fortunes found it a comforting nest from which to launch their lives. Any history of the Barbizon, then, is a history of single women and, more significantly, a history of working women. The book takes us from the relatively progressive flapper era through the Great Depression, when many states made it illegal for married women to work, and on to the war era when women filled positions men vacated for the battlefield. This, of course, was followed by the 1950s, when women were encouraged to find their fulfillment solely as mothers and wives, eventually inspiring a book (The Feminine Mystique) about how well that worked out. Through it all, the Barbizon was there, housing models, actresses, and secretaries: the Katharine Gibbs secretarial school reserved several floors for its students, and Bren recounts the history of the school and the women who enrolled there. She then moves on to the Mademoiselle program, which understandably takes up a large portion of the book. If you're a fan of Sylvia Plath or Joan Didion, these sections may well be catnip for you, as they were for me. There's something fascinating about very young writers at the very start of their careers, and Bren did an impressive amount of research, hunting down their fellow guest editors and providing lots of firsthand perspectives. Plath in particular casts a very long shadow, and the portrait of her here is more rounded, in fewer pages, than the one in Pain, Parties, Work, which covers the same time period. As Bren herself acknowledges, the Barbizon housed a certain type of woman: reasonably well-off, and almost always white. There are so many stories that can be told about women and work in twentieth-century America, and The Barbizon is only one of them. Still, it's a first: as Bren relates, other writers have attempted to write histories of the Barbizon and given up in frustration. Bren herself nearly gave up, but persevered, pulling and prying material from many different sources. The end result is meant for a general audience; if you're expecting deep historical analysis, you may be disappointed. But I wasn't. The Barbizon is right in my wheelhouse, and I found it illuminating and hard to put down. It's 5 stars from me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a well researched history of The Barbizon, a women only residential hotel, in New York. The hotel was built in 1927 to cater for (mainly younger) women who came to work, and live independently, in New York and to replace the outdated boardinghouses that most lived in previously. Of course, many still did. Although this is subtitled, "The New York Hotel that set women free," it catered mainly for a certain class of girls. The book starts with New York in the Jazz Age, full of speakeasies a This is a well researched history of The Barbizon, a women only residential hotel, in New York. The hotel was built in 1927 to cater for (mainly younger) women who came to work, and live independently, in New York and to replace the outdated boardinghouses that most lived in previously. Of course, many still did. Although this is subtitled, "The New York Hotel that set women free," it catered mainly for a certain class of girls. The book starts with New York in the Jazz Age, full of speakeasies and glamour, although one of the first residents - the 'unsinkable' Molly Brown (from Titanic) was not a fan of the flappers. We then go through the Great Depression and women seen to be taking paid employment from men, which meant that the Barbizon helped literally protect women from ill feeling as they looked for careers. Weaved into this story are those companies who used the Barbizon, such as the Katharine Gibbs secretarial school. Secretarial work was seen as essentially female, so less of a threat, but many of those who took the first step on the corporate ladder taking shorthand, would end up with careers, rather than jobs. There was also the Powers modelling agency and Mademoiselle magazine, with the 'Millie's,' guest editors - something Sylvia Plath fictionalised in, 'The Bell Jar." This is a fascinating portrait of a glamorous residential hotel, which offered many women an opportunity to find a career and independence in a safe and secure environment. There were lectures, talks and tea and it opened its doors to many women who later gained success or fame - from Sylvia Plath to Joan Didion, Grace Kelly and many, many more who simply savoured possibly the first personal and economic independence of their lives.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This is really more of a snapshot of women in Manhattan as experienced by those making the transition of coming of age in an era of accelerated change. The Barbizon, built in the late 1920's, initially represented a vision of female independence as the constraints of Victorianism gave way to more mobility and self reliance. But there had to be an intermediate step for women leaving the protection of home for the first time, and the Barbizon with its combination of hotel amenities and housemother This is really more of a snapshot of women in Manhattan as experienced by those making the transition of coming of age in an era of accelerated change. The Barbizon, built in the late 1920's, initially represented a vision of female independence as the constraints of Victorianism gave way to more mobility and self reliance. But there had to be an intermediate step for women leaving the protection of home for the first time, and the Barbizon with its combination of hotel amenities and housemother type managing style gave both parents and young women a sense of security. Paulina Bren did her research, spooling out her history with personal stories of many of the more famous residents, each of which personalized an era. Much is here about Sylvia Plath who embodied the transitional 1950's, forever memorializing the hotel calling it the Amazon in her account of the month she spent there as one of the guest editors, or GEs, of Mademoiselle Magazine, which is covered extensively. Also covered is the connection to Katharine Gibbs school and the part it played in the hotel's past. While it was interesting to read of Gael Greene, Ali McGraw, Grace Kelly and others, there was a fair amount of repetition which became tedious after a while. The purpose of the hotel has shifted with the times and fortunes of New York, its current status as a location for very high priced real estate and multimillion dollar co-ops. Not a perfect read, but fun for those who love reading about the popular history of New York in unique ways.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    The Barbizon, through much of the twentieth century, had been a place where women felt safe, where they had a room of their own to plot and plan the rest of their lives. The hotel set them free. It freed up their ambition, tapping into their desires deemed off limits elsewhere, but imaginable, realizable, doable, in the City of Dreams. New York City is brimming over with history and the story of the Barbizon intrigued me. The first few chapters were a fascinating view of its beginnings. The histo The Barbizon, through much of the twentieth century, had been a place where women felt safe, where they had a room of their own to plot and plan the rest of their lives. The hotel set them free. It freed up their ambition, tapping into their desires deemed off limits elsewhere, but imaginable, realizable, doable, in the City of Dreams. New York City is brimming over with history and the story of the Barbizon intrigued me. The first few chapters were a fascinating view of its beginnings. The historical context was well articulated and I was engaged. When the Mademoiselle magazine GE program became the focus, I started skimming. There were so many names and so many details that really had nothing to do with the Barbizon itself. The magazine was using the hotel as a dormitory, but other entities were doing the same and did not get the same intensive focus. For me it was a bit off balance and I would have loved to see more photos like the one of Rita Hayworth at the beginning of Chapter One. Well researched, but could use some additional editing in my opinion. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Mahon

    As a native New Yorker who was obsessed with Sylvia Plath as a teenager, I was eager to read the new biography of the Barbizon Hotel. I walk past the former hotel whenever I'm in Midtown East to see my doctor. If you have read Michael Callahan's book Searching for Grace Kelly or Fiona Davis's The Dollhouse, or even Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (where the hotel was immortalized as The Amazon) then you will want to read Paulina Bren's book The Barbizon. It's not a perfect book by any means, I found As a native New Yorker who was obsessed with Sylvia Plath as a teenager, I was eager to read the new biography of the Barbizon Hotel. I walk past the former hotel whenever I'm in Midtown East to see my doctor. If you have read Michael Callahan's book Searching for Grace Kelly or Fiona Davis's The Dollhouse, or even Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (where the hotel was immortalized as The Amazon) then you will want to read Paulina Bren's book The Barbizon. It's not a perfect book by any means, I found a few inaccuracies. For example, it was the Daily News, not the Daily Mail that had the infamous headline "New York, Drop Dead." There are a few others like that (books like this really need to be proofread better by both the copy editor and the author). The book is not just a biography of probably the most famous women's only hotel in New York but also of Mademoiselle Magazine and Katherine Gibbs. Only Katherine Gibbs survives unfortunately. I was an avid reader of Mademoiselle and I will be forever sad that I was born too late to participate in the Guest Editor program. It's too bad that nothing like that exists anymore or that there is no magazine that speaks for young college or twenty something women. Yes, I know there are online forums but there is something about a print magazine. Anyone interested in not only the history of New York but about women's history, particularly the 1940's and 1950's, should pick up this book. It's not just the story of women like Sylvia Plath, Bren also includes Barbara Chase-Riboud's story, not only the 1st African-American guest editor at Mademoiselle but also the first to stay at the Barbizon Hotel, Ali McGraw, Betsey Johnson, Phylicia Rashad, Jacklyn Smith and Meg Wolitzer also get a mention. I would have liked to have known more about the hotel during the 1960's for example, but I can't really quibble. The fact that this book exists is fantastic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    After World War I, women flocked to New York City to follow their dreams and sought safe, female-only places to live. While residential hotels for men existed, no such thing was available for women at the time. The Barbizon Hotel for Women was built to fill this void, housing such well-knowns as Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali McGraw, Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, Phylicia Rashad and many more, and was so successful that it remains the most famous of the women-only residences erected in the first h After World War I, women flocked to New York City to follow their dreams and sought safe, female-only places to live. While residential hotels for men existed, no such thing was available for women at the time. The Barbizon Hotel for Women was built to fill this void, housing such well-knowns as Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Ali McGraw, Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, Phylicia Rashad and many more, and was so successful that it remains the most famous of the women-only residences erected in the first half of the 20th century. In The Barbizon, Paulina Bren captures not only the history of the legendary hotel but also important moments in women’s history from that time period. Want to hear more about some great new reads? Listen to my podcast here: https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com. For more book reviews and book conversation, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I was excited to find a book about the Barbizon Hotel. I remember my mother talking about taking the train from Cincinnati to NYC to shop, attend the theater and visit museums and stay at the Barbizon Hotel. I always held a somewhat mystique for me. It would have been in the 1950's that my mother and her friend would stay there. It was interesting to learn the history of how a woman's only hotel came about and learn a bit about the residents. They tended to be those of the upper class. The progres I was excited to find a book about the Barbizon Hotel. I remember my mother talking about taking the train from Cincinnati to NYC to shop, attend the theater and visit museums and stay at the Barbizon Hotel. I always held a somewhat mystique for me. It would have been in the 1950's that my mother and her friend would stay there. It was interesting to learn the history of how a woman's only hotel came about and learn a bit about the residents. They tended to be those of the upper class. The progression of the book was interesting for me. The first third or so held my interest as it talked about the women looking for work, such as models. As it progressed, it felt as though the book was more about Mademoiselle magazine whose guest college editors stayed at the Barbizon. The last third was very easy for me to put down as it became very repetitious. The editors need to tighten up the book. I am giving the book 3 stars though it is really 2.5. What could have been a great read was just a book about those who "have" and not as well written as it could have been. Thank you Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest feedback.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    The first half of this book really kicked butt! It was everything I expected it to be. I learned about the reasoning behind the Barbizon, I learned some good gossipy facts about some of the women staying there, learned about the society of the time period, got an understanding of what companies had their 'girls' stay there -think Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School and different modeling agencies and I just had fun with this book. Suddenly, this book turned from a fun read into a mishmash - Madem The first half of this book really kicked butt! It was everything I expected it to be. I learned about the reasoning behind the Barbizon, I learned some good gossipy facts about some of the women staying there, learned about the society of the time period, got an understanding of what companies had their 'girls' stay there -think Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School and different modeling agencies and I just had fun with this book. Suddenly, this book turned from a fun read into a mishmash - Mademoiselle (magazine) introduced itself and its affiliation with the Barbizon. Learning about that was interesting; however, when the magazine introduced its Guest Editor editions, the second half of this book just dealt with that. Well, the Guest Editors and Sylvia Plath and the editor Betsy Blackwell (1937–1971). Had I wanted to learn about Sylvia Plath, I would have gotten a book expressly written about her. Yes, I grasp that the book "The Bell Jar" was written about her experience at the Barbizon, but I still didn't expect this sort of 'hero worship' from this author. Nearly the entire second half of this book became the most tedious read except for the part when the hotel kept going through different hands and remodeling up until it eventually became condos. *ARC supplied by the publisher and author.

  10. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    The Glam! The Barbizon, by Paulina Bren, is a very accessible book that lets the reader into a very glamorous world! Oh, I would have loved living there! But the author is very frank in her history and in the early days of The Barbizon’s glory, it was exclusively white – with no place for me lol. The author does tell us a little bit about the very first African American woman who was allowed to stay there – and what a strange experience it must have been for her! The book focuses more on some of t The Glam! The Barbizon, by Paulina Bren, is a very accessible book that lets the reader into a very glamorous world! Oh, I would have loved living there! But the author is very frank in her history and in the early days of The Barbizon’s glory, it was exclusively white – with no place for me lol. The author does tell us a little bit about the very first African American woman who was allowed to stay there – and what a strange experience it must have been for her! The book focuses more on some of the most famous (and iconic) residents, all while giving us a glimpse into the history and culture of America and how The Barbizon played a role. It’s definitely a story of glamour, but it’s also a story of feminism and independence and of a place that gave women a footing to fight for what they wanted. I also loved the photos interspersed in the book, though I’d love to have seen even more! This was a wonderful escape of a read – a bit of time travel into days gone by. *ARC Provided via Net Galley

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Bohn

    I really enjoyed the first 50% or so (note: references etc started at 80% on my Kindle) but once I hit the 1950s/Sylvia Plath section, I lost interest. I put it down for a fiction novel and had trouble picking it back up. Please note these are Interesting Times and I've dropped a lot of books this year. Overall recommended. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC. I really enjoyed the first 50% or so (note: references etc started at 80% on my Kindle) but once I hit the 1950s/Sylvia Plath section, I lost interest. I put it down for a fiction novel and had trouble picking it back up. Please note these are Interesting Times and I've dropped a lot of books this year. Overall recommended. Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    2.5 stars rounded up — maybe. Let's see if it stays. "But before they were household names, they were among the young women arriving at the Barbizon with a suitcase, reference letters, and hope." The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free loses itself and feels like more of a mishmash of The Changing Times for White Middle-Class Creative Women Who Briefly Visit Manhattan as Guest Editors for Mademoiselle Magazine (1930ish-1970ish). I feel vaguely disappointed but still enjoyed parts of this hodge 2.5 stars rounded up — maybe. Let's see if it stays. "But before they were household names, they were among the young women arriving at the Barbizon with a suitcase, reference letters, and hope." The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free loses itself and feels like more of a mishmash of The Changing Times for White Middle-Class Creative Women Who Briefly Visit Manhattan as Guest Editors for Mademoiselle Magazine (1930ish-1970ish). I feel vaguely disappointed but still enjoyed parts of this hodgepodge. Built at the end of the 1920's, exclusively for women, the Barbizon hotel seems to be intrinsically linked with Mademoiselle magazine and Gibbs College. But the focus in this book is definitely on the former. There are times when reading The Barbizon that I forgot that it wasn't really The Mademoiselle instead. Many of the famous residents at the Barbizon were there for the quick summer guest editor program sponsored by the magazine. People like Sylvia Plath. While Bren does mention and pay nice tributes to other women, she spends an inordinate amount of time on Plath and the summer she was there — especially considering Plath lays this summer out to bare in The Bell Jar, which Bren also mentions often. I get the fascination. I do. But I wanted less of a character study on these women we already know so much about and I wanted to know more about the hotel itself. I wanted to feel as if the hotel was a character within these pages — and I just don't think Bren quite got there. Also, there's a whole swarm of women, who come to be known as "The Women," who never leave and, because of the tenant laws are never forced out by rent increases. A small group continues and protests through various renovations — around whom they design and redesign a whole floor on which to contain these elderly ladies. Please, more of these ladies. And large photographs. And even some more of the dirty laundry (pardon any pun); some digging into these murders and attacks and suicides that took place there — who were these women? "In 1975, seventy-nine-year old Ruth Harding, a lonely resident who liked to hang out in the lobby and talk to anyone willing to listen, was strangled to death in her eleventh floor room. Her murder went unsolved." Perhaps it would've been better served as a larger format, coffee table book — I certainly would've loved more focus on the actual hotel Barbizon and the ways in which it changed over the years and the women — famous or not — who passed through its doors. I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Thank you to Goodreads, #NetGalley & Simon & Schuster for this ARC. What history this hotel was. I did know it was a hotel for single women only, in New York, but never knew about the history of the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school being there, or the celebrities staying there or the connections it had with Mademoiselle magazine and it's guest editors every Summer which had upcoming writers like Joan Didion, Diane Johnson and many others. The celebrities that stayed there were Grace Kelly, Ali Thank you to Goodreads, #NetGalley & Simon & Schuster for this ARC. What history this hotel was. I did know it was a hotel for single women only, in New York, but never knew about the history of the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school being there, or the celebrities staying there or the connections it had with Mademoiselle magazine and it's guest editors every Summer which had upcoming writers like Joan Didion, Diane Johnson and many others. The celebrities that stayed there were Grace Kelly, Ali McGraw, Jaclyn Smith and so many others. It also focused on the eras and what was happening at the time with racism, having their first African American resident etc. A lot of the girls were upcoming (hopefully) models which Mlle magazine helped them get jobs too. This book is rich in history and the demise when it was sold in the 1980s was sad and they were made into condos that had floors catering to the women who lived there since the 1930s. They were rent controlled rooms so the new owners couldn't kick them out. I loved how they catered to them by leaving the rooms intact via secret doors on certain floors. To me one of the downsides of this book is how they focused A LOT on Sylvia Path's and Joan Didion's time there probably because she was their most famous guest. There was a lot mentioned about Plath's The Bell Jar which is loosely based on The Barbizon which I didn't know when I read it years ago. There was also a chapter after she left and committed suicide. Also, it was redundant after a while year after year with the guest editors etc.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    THE BARBIZON BY PAULA BREN Having attended the Barbizon Modeling School in Boston, MA when I was younger I was excited to see this title about the famous Barbizon Hotel on my dashboard. This book is a social history of the twentieth century. It is very informative starting out with the history of prohibition and the speakeasies to the flapper. The Barbizon residential Hotel started out for women who could be from anywhere but it was built in 1927 in New York City. I had heard of it when I attended THE BARBIZON BY PAULA BREN Having attended the Barbizon Modeling School in Boston, MA when I was younger I was excited to see this title about the famous Barbizon Hotel on my dashboard. This book is a social history of the twentieth century. It is very informative starting out with the history of prohibition and the speakeasies to the flapper. The Barbizon residential Hotel started out for women who could be from anywhere but it was built in 1927 in New York City. I had heard of it when I attended the school in Boston. Many famous women stayed there including Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion, who was a Mademoiselle contest winner. The book describes the origins of Mademoiselle. Rita Hayworth posed in the hotel's gymnasium for Life magazine. This hotel was located on 140 East Sixty Third Street. It was a safe place for women to stay as men weren't allowed past the mezzanine level. It was home to the Katherine Gibbs School which women were known to wear white gloves and were taught typing and shorthand. Also women stayed there that were models of the John Robert Powers Modeling Agency which was still one of the world's top three agencies for super models in the early 1980's that much I remember. Paulina Bren has written a social commentary of an iconic building that has been a snap shot of a multitude of twentieth century history which includes the early part ending with the hotel as a backdrop of each historic movement. It chronicles too much to include in a review to do it justice. Publication Date: March 2, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Paula Bren and Simon & Schuster for providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. #TheBarbizon #PaulinaBren #Simon&Schuster #NetGalley

  15. 4 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    This is basically a pedestrian history of white, middle/upper class young women who passed through the Barbizon Hotel in NYC in the 20th century. There is a great deal about the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school and even more about the Guest Editors program at Mademoiselle, both of which housed young women at the Barbizon. There's a lot of focus on Grace Kelly and Sylvia Plath, and a bit about Barbara Chase (later Barbara Chase-Riboud), who broke the color barrier, and a few other more typical This is basically a pedestrian history of white, middle/upper class young women who passed through the Barbizon Hotel in NYC in the 20th century. There is a great deal about the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school and even more about the Guest Editors program at Mademoiselle, both of which housed young women at the Barbizon. There's a lot of focus on Grace Kelly and Sylvia Plath, and a bit about Barbara Chase (later Barbara Chase-Riboud), who broke the color barrier, and a few other more typical women, but this mostly just rushes on and on, naming names and making comments on society in general. The hotel offered safe, downright cloistered, housing for women. But how did it "set them free"?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    A stunning history of American women seen through the scrim of The Barbizon in NYC. The residential hotel housed single women only, propelled to pursue their career dreams via post-WWI freedoms and the right to vote. The residents are enthralling ... from actresses Grace Kelly to Ali McGraw, writers Sylvia Plath to Joan Didion, along with fashion models and secretaries all clambering for success in the big city. A 20th Century historical gem! Pub Date 02 Mar 2021 Thanks to the author, Simon & Sch A stunning history of American women seen through the scrim of The Barbizon in NYC. The residential hotel housed single women only, propelled to pursue their career dreams via post-WWI freedoms and the right to vote. The residents are enthralling ... from actresses Grace Kelly to Ali McGraw, writers Sylvia Plath to Joan Didion, along with fashion models and secretaries all clambering for success in the big city. A 20th Century historical gem! Pub Date 02 Mar 2021 Thanks to the author, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine. #TheBarbizon #NetGalley

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Mae

    What a fun book. I’ve always been fascinated by the Barbizon, and it was wonderful to read a book on its history that also is a marvelous history lesson in mid-century New York for women. The author details so many interesting women who lived in the Barbizon, most particularly the guest editors of Mademoiselle magazine over the years (like Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion). My only regret reading the book is it’s an advance copy and the end notes haven’t been formatted, so I will have to get a finis What a fun book. I’ve always been fascinated by the Barbizon, and it was wonderful to read a book on its history that also is a marvelous history lesson in mid-century New York for women. The author details so many interesting women who lived in the Barbizon, most particularly the guest editors of Mademoiselle magazine over the years (like Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion). My only regret reading the book is it’s an advance copy and the end notes haven’t been formatted, so I will have to get a finished copy later to check out the WEALTH of information in them!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shari Suarez

    The Barbizon is part of New York history. It was a long term occupancy hotel for women with many famous residents over the years including Sylvia Plath, Grace Kelly and Ali McGraw. This is a well-researched history of the hotel from its beginnings to its current iteration as luxury condos. The author has taken a book that could have been dry and boring and turned it in to a fascinating portrait of the famous building and the women who stayed there.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eugenia

    It took me a bit longer to reward than expected but I found this a fascinating read about history of a huge part of the 20th century New York and its women, a reflection of possibility of freedoms that began to be available to women in this country. Very enjoyable and well researched with so much air of intimacy and personal experience.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    This is a brilliant social history of women during the transitional years of the mid-Twentieth century. The author used the nexus of the Barbizon Hotel to tell the story. There is emphasis on the emergence of working and independent women, with the focus shifting to specific women and events. Some residents became iconic, Grace Kelly and Sylvia Plath, others became leading lights in other professions. This book totally combines careful research with fascinating readable stories. As a historian a This is a brilliant social history of women during the transitional years of the mid-Twentieth century. The author used the nexus of the Barbizon Hotel to tell the story. There is emphasis on the emergence of working and independent women, with the focus shifting to specific women and events. Some residents became iconic, Grace Kelly and Sylvia Plath, others became leading lights in other professions. This book totally combines careful research with fascinating readable stories. As a historian and voracious reader, I found this satisfying and engaging. I intend to recommend it to my women’s studies classes and reading groups. FYI, for many years, my mother-in-law had a business in the building so this book brought back so many memories. Bravo, Paulina Bren! Thank you Netgalley for this opportunity to read and review this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michelle "Champ"

    The Barbizon was a very interesting nonfiction read. It is a history of The Barbizon Hotel for women with a sprinkling of the history of Mademoiselle magazine too as a lot of the story intertwines with the magazine's history. The book takes us on a journey from the building of the hotel and its origins. Did you know it was built to fill a hole in the housing market, as there was not anything for single girls in the 1920's? A lot of famous women would reside within the hotel's walls, Margaret Bro The Barbizon was a very interesting nonfiction read. It is a history of The Barbizon Hotel for women with a sprinkling of the history of Mademoiselle magazine too as a lot of the story intertwines with the magazine's history. The book takes us on a journey from the building of the hotel and its origins. Did you know it was built to fill a hole in the housing market, as there was not anything for single girls in the 1920's? A lot of famous women would reside within the hotel's walls, Margaret Brown (yes, the Titanic Molly), Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Sylvia Plath, and many more. I found that most of the book discussed the girls that were in the guest editor program of Mademoiselle magazine. I had no idea that was a thing as a guest editor program in those days. I received a copy of The Barbizon in exchange for my honest opinion.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    What do Rita Hayworth, Molly Brown, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Phylicia Rashad, and a slew of writers like Sylvia Plath and Meg Wolitzer have in common? The Barbizon Hotel. The Barbizon opened in 1928 just when the roaring twenties peaked. It was a hotel for ‘only women’, and during its long history, the beauty of its clientele attracted the attention of many famous men. Who would hang out to get a glimpse of New York’s latest arrivals. Men What do Rita Hayworth, Molly Brown, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Liza Minnelli, Ali MacGraw, Jaclyn Smith, Phylicia Rashad, and a slew of writers like Sylvia Plath and Meg Wolitzer have in common? The Barbizon Hotel. The Barbizon opened in 1928 just when the roaring twenties peaked. It was a hotel for ‘only women’, and during its long history, the beauty of its clientele attracted the attention of many famous men. Who would hang out to get a glimpse of New York’s latest arrivals. Men were never allowed beyond the mezzanine lobby but the hotel on Sixty-Third Street only drew the most prolific crowd. If a young woman made her way past the interview with the front-desk assistant manager, she was placed into an A, B, or C category depending on her age. Also required were letters of reference regarding moral character, not to mention looks and background. If she passed these tests, she would be escorted to a tiny room consisting of matching bedspread, curtain, and wallpaper with a single bed, dresser, armchair, floor lamp, a small desk, and a wall radio. This was often more than the average small-town girl had at home where she might share space with a sibling. Rates were $10-$22 a week. The Barbizon was luxury and for its residents, it could be home for weeks, months, or even years. This is where young women were sent to stay in New York because it was known to be a ‘safe’ place, where the elevator operators changed in the evenings to all-female to ensure no men were allowed on the upper floors. There was a front door bouncer to watch out for the female residents, and he took his job seriously. Women who aspired to ‘be somebody’ felt free to study, dance, act, sing, write, or take flight because their haven was the Barbizon. Mademoiselle magazine used the Barbizon for the winners of their guest editor program and this book highlights many of these young women and their stories. While most only spent one week to a month at the Barbizon, the experience would change their lives as they pranced around to parties and fancy outings supported by the magazine. Most of these women were college students and would return to their homes with even grander dreams than one could imagine after the Mademoiselle experience. The author paints a Barbizon tapestry highlighting the enormous number of features the establishment offered to the needs of its residents. There was never a need to leave the full-service Barbizon. It had a dry cleaner, hairdresser, swimming pool, fashion designs, library, soundproof rooms for musicians and roof gardens. Of course, each decade required changes to accommodate the latest trends and social requirements. Through the great depression, a world war, and into the fifties the hotel was home to young women artists, writers, and more. This is an epic tale, and while I’m a chronological thinker, revisiting previous decades and repeating information was a bit of a struggle. But the book is fun and informative and even a bit glamorous. Enjoy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lori Sinsel Harris

    Before reading this book I knew one thing about the word "Barbizon". To me growing up in the 197-s and being like most other teen-aged girls I read quite a few fashion magazines and had very unrealistic dreams of going to New York city and becoming a model or at the very least a fashion designer. And one thing I remember in those magazines were advertisements for Barbizon Modeling School. I did not know a thing about a hote only for women, or about what that hotel really meant to the dozen's of Before reading this book I knew one thing about the word "Barbizon". To me growing up in the 197-s and being like most other teen-aged girls I read quite a few fashion magazines and had very unrealistic dreams of going to New York city and becoming a model or at the very least a fashion designer. And one thing I remember in those magazines were advertisements for Barbizon Modeling School. I did not know a thing about a hote only for women, or about what that hotel really meant to the dozen's of women who lived and stayed there. I did enjoy reading about this famous hotel. Finding out about the opportunities the women who stayed there were able to take advantage of, especially in the beginning when women were to be homemakers and not part of the work force. Reading about these women and how they courageously went against convention to fullfill their dreams I can not imagine how hard it was for them. Reading about the hotel and how it gave single women a safe haven to pursue their careers and dreams was very enlightening. There were so many women who came from all over to stay at the Barbizon, the likes of Grace Kelly, Sylvia Plath, and Liza Minnelli, a veritable who's who of famous women stayed at the hotel over the years. This book is filled with the history of the hotel, how it began, how it was built, and how it developed and adapted over the years, changing with the times. It tells of the women who stayed there and their hopes, dreams, achievements and disappointments. This is a good fact-filled history of the hotel and a testament to the ever-changing role of women in the work place and also that even the most unreachable dream can be reached, with drive, focus and ambition, women can do anything! I would recommend for anyone interested in the history of New York City and the history of women's liberalization throughout the years. This is a very informative read about a piece of women's history I was not aware of. Thank you to the publishers at Simon & Schuster publishing and NetGalley for the free advanced reader copy of the book, in return I am leaving my honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    If you were watching American TV in the early 1980s, you might have seen a sitcom starring a young unknown Tom Hanks. It was called Bosom Buddies and took place in a residence hotel for women. The gag was that our two young heroes, who work in advertising in Manhattan, can only afford to live in the women's hotel, so they disguise themselves as women and remarkably, manage to fool everyone. Hilarity ensues. I mention this because I had that picture in my mind as I read The Barbizon, which may hav If you were watching American TV in the early 1980s, you might have seen a sitcom starring a young unknown Tom Hanks. It was called Bosom Buddies and took place in a residence hotel for women. The gag was that our two young heroes, who work in advertising in Manhattan, can only afford to live in the women's hotel, so they disguise themselves as women and remarkably, manage to fool everyone. Hilarity ensues. I mention this because I had that picture in my mind as I read The Barbizon, which may have affected my view of it. Paulina Bren outlines the history of The Barbizon from its opening in 1927 until it switched to a regular hotel for men and women starting in 1981. She does this by highlighting some of the women who lived there, among them Margaret Brown, often known as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" for her survival of the sinking of the Titanic, Sylvia Plath, and Grace Kelly. Liza Minelli makes an appearance but is overshadowed by her mother. Betsy Talbot Blackwell has a key role in the book since she arrived at The Barbizon just before joining the staff of a new magazine called Mademoiselle, where she quickly became editor. The Barbizon sought to find exactly the type of residents that Mademoiselle sought to feature. Eileen Ford arrived just before starting her modeling firm. Katharine Gibbs started a prestigious secretarial school and used the hotel as an office, classrooms, and residence for her students. The idea of a women's hotel in Manhattan made sense at the time, a safe place where women could find refuge in the unforgiving city, and where they could network. I enjoyed learning about this slice of social history. (Thanks to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for a digital review copy.)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Danna

    2.5 stars, rounded up. Prior to picking up The Barbizon, I had never heard of The Barbizon Hotel. I enjoy non-fiction stories of women, glamour, and history, so deciding to read The Barbizon was easy. It started off at a good pace, explaining the many histories that The Barbizon Hotel was host to: the Katharine Gibbs secretarial school, the Mademoiselle magazine guest editor competitions, and the famed writers, artists, and socialites that graced its rooms. It was delightful to learn about Sylvi 2.5 stars, rounded up. Prior to picking up The Barbizon, I had never heard of The Barbizon Hotel. I enjoy non-fiction stories of women, glamour, and history, so deciding to read The Barbizon was easy. It started off at a good pace, explaining the many histories that The Barbizon Hotel was host to: the Katharine Gibbs secretarial school, the Mademoiselle magazine guest editor competitions, and the famed writers, artists, and socialites that graced its rooms. It was delightful to learn about Sylvia Plath, Grace Kelly, Betsy Talbott Blackwell and others. I could imagine being a 20-something, vibrant young woman from small-town America, walking into The Barbizon and being overwhelmed by femininity, New York City, and the vastness of my own potential. About 50-60% in, the book fell flat for me. It started to feel repetitive and that it was going nowhere. I can't tell you how many times Bren mentions that Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, Betsey Johnson, et al stayed at The Barbizon. I wanted the book to be more linear, more heavily edited, and more fluid. The topic is interesting, but the book dragged too long. Thank you to the publisher for the ARC! Favorite quote: "The hushed talk of her nervous breakdown, of disappearing under her mother's porch with a bottle of pills, the manhunt that followed, merely added to her mystique in an era, Peggy later realized, 'when neuroticism among women authors was almost a necessary badge of membership in the women's creative community.'"

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cory Beyer

    Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. After reading The Doll House by @fionadavis, I have been fascinated by this all-women hotel. Small town girls from all over the country moved to NYC to make it big and the Barbizon is where they stayed. With a low rent, big rules, chaperoned atmosphere, this is the only way women could convince their daddies of this new life. This book is a non-fiction account of this iconic building. Opened in 1927, women were able to come to NYC and live in a safe environme Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. After reading The Doll House by @fionadavis, I have been fascinated by this all-women hotel. Small town girls from all over the country moved to NYC to make it big and the Barbizon is where they stayed. With a low rent, big rules, chaperoned atmosphere, this is the only way women could convince their daddies of this new life. This book is a non-fiction account of this iconic building. Opened in 1927, women were able to come to NYC and live in a safe environment while trying to make their dreams come true. Mademoiselle magazine would hire junior writers right from college, paid for them to live in 5 floors of the this hotel while writing for the mag. Several Broadway stars lived here, one being Grace Kelly. Nancy Davis (Regan) lived here about the same time she met her future husband. Sylvia Plath wrote a book about her time in this hotel (The Bell Jar). However, it wasn't all fun and games. There were also 55 suicides swept under the rug. In the early 2000's, in financial trouble, this hotel was turned into luxury condos. However, there is a handful of women who still live here from the glory days. Under law, they have a rent controlled apartment and paying the same rent they paid in the 1950's. I enjoyed the history about this hotel, however, each chapter was written about a particular time and/or personal accounts that over lapped so several times, the story was repeated. #thebarbizon #paulinabren #mar2021

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sage

    2.5 stars. This book was all over the place. While it was certainly fascinating and made me want to do more research on my own, I was left a little disappointed. I didn’t love the structure of the book, and I found it really hard to focus on the numerous characters of every chapter/decade, and piecing out what they did when etc. No fault of the author though, because this project is massive in scope. It makes sense that no one’s ever really looked into the history of the Barbizon before, because 2.5 stars. This book was all over the place. While it was certainly fascinating and made me want to do more research on my own, I was left a little disappointed. I didn’t love the structure of the book, and I found it really hard to focus on the numerous characters of every chapter/decade, and piecing out what they did when etc. No fault of the author though, because this project is massive in scope. It makes sense that no one’s ever really looked into the history of the Barbizon before, because women’s history is so often overlooked or diminished. It was really interesting to see the rise of flappers, career women, Gibbs girls, into the 1960s and on. Definitely made a GREAT point when talking about how women at the hotel have more time and energy to focus on their careers when they don’t have to worry about household chores, as meals and cleaning services etc. were provided. There were a handful of sections that talked about race and privilege (I wish there would have been more throughout) but obviously the Barbizon was very much only for a certain kind of privileged woman. The end (BOO gentrification) made me really sad. I’m glad the remaining Women were legally protected under rent control laws so there had to be accommodations for them in the renovated building. Overall, I enjoyed the camaraderie and sisterhood of what living at the Barbizon in its heyday must have been like, but I definitely skimmed some sections here.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bookgrrl

    This book is a history of New York City’s most famous residential hotel for women. It opened in 1927 for the hordes of single women who were setting out on a life of their own as independent women. They were actresses, models, dancers, singers, secretaries, nurses, you name it. This hotel was THE place to be, with a performance stage, library, lecture rooms, gym, and a full-size swimming pool. There were even shops that had entrances inside the hotel so that residents could shop without ever hav This book is a history of New York City’s most famous residential hotel for women. It opened in 1927 for the hordes of single women who were setting out on a life of their own as independent women. They were actresses, models, dancers, singers, secretaries, nurses, you name it. This hotel was THE place to be, with a performance stage, library, lecture rooms, gym, and a full-size swimming pool. There were even shops that had entrances inside the hotel so that residents could shop without ever having to go out on the street. The hotel was well known for Gibbs girls, which were secretaries that attended the Katherine Gibbs school, Powers girls which were models employed by the Powers Modeling agency, and the rotating line of guest editors for Mademoiselle magazine. There was also a revolving door of famous residents, like Molly Brown, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, and Ali McGraw. I had never heard of the Barbizon hotel before, and I’m really glad that I found this book. It was really interesting reading about all these different women and the struggles they had less than 100 years ago for acceptance in this world. This was very well researched and written, and a worthwhile read. Thank you so much to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and the author for this advanced reader copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Cha

    I received a free ecopy of the book from NetGalley. I never heard of the Barbizon Hotel before reading the book. I was fascinated by the concept. I definitely wanted to learn more. I, also, really enjoy non fiction. The book is the stories of various woman who stayed or lived at the Barbizon. It focuses mainly on the celebrities, models, and women who worked for Mademoiselle. I was most fascinated about the stories of Sylvia Plath. The book focuses mainly on the history of the hotel fron the 1930' I received a free ecopy of the book from NetGalley. I never heard of the Barbizon Hotel before reading the book. I was fascinated by the concept. I definitely wanted to learn more. I, also, really enjoy non fiction. The book is the stories of various woman who stayed or lived at the Barbizon. It focuses mainly on the celebrities, models, and women who worked for Mademoiselle. I was most fascinated about the stories of Sylvia Plath. The book focuses mainly on the history of the hotel fron the 1930's - 1950's. A time when women's roles were so different. The book talks about women's roles, being single, getting married, depression, suicide, assault, racism, ageism, sex, eating disorders, and so much more. The book is so interesting at times. There was so much information that I did not know about. It is very raw in talking about such sensitive subjects. It was so surprising, how many celebrities, that I remember, stayed at the hotel. The book was sort of difficult to read. The chapters are very long. The grammar is not the best. It has some run off sentences. Yet, the content is fascinating. It is a book that I will need to reread. There is so much to learn from the book. I am appreciative to the author for the opportunity to read the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Regina Mastrogiacomo

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There is a lot to this book that I found interesting, how the builders decided on the décor of the building, The women who have been there since the 1930's and why, and the rules that were in place for safety and appearance. It's an intense look at a hotel that created the image we think about when we think of the elegance of New York. The Barbizon is truly one of a kind that we will never be seen again but you can learn about in this book. The reason I was interested in this book was I remembere There is a lot to this book that I found interesting, how the builders decided on the décor of the building, The women who have been there since the 1930's and why, and the rules that were in place for safety and appearance. It's an intense look at a hotel that created the image we think about when we think of the elegance of New York. The Barbizon is truly one of a kind that we will never be seen again but you can learn about in this book. The reason I was interested in this book was I remembered the name associated with modeling but that's all. I never knew how important it was for young women from 1928 through the 1960 who wanted something more after college and high school besides marriage and children, and though it help some to achieve some independence it didn't stop many from ending up in marriage and with children anyway. I was amazed at the amount of young women both famous and regular people who tried their luck in New York City by attending secretarial school, being a guest editor for Mademoiselle and modeling and how serious they emerge themselves in the process, but in the end society forced most of women back to where they came from. I want to that Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for this advance copy.

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