The Barbizon - The New York Hotel That Set Women Free - by Paulina Bren - 2021-
I received a review copy of this book about six months ago. I had intended to read it shortly after obtaining it but things got away from me as they do. The is is a first rate work on narrative non-fiction entering on life in a for women only hotel in New York City, The Barbizon.
The Barbizon Hotel, 23 stories, open in 1927 as a residential hotel for women. Many young women wanted to try a career in the New York City but could get parental assent and support only if they stayed at the Barbizon. There were several places to eat, a book shop, a lobby to meet dates (no men allowed in the rooms) a venue for preforming, a protective door man and places to socialize. Many residents saw it as like their college sororities, a place with instant friends.
A lot of the book is taken up with the relationship of the hotel and the highly prestigious Glamour Magazine Guest Editor Program in which from 1000s of applications from College students twenty women were selected to spend the month of June as guest editors. All the guest editors were required to stay at the Barbizon Hotel. Sylvia Plath is featured in two chapters. I did not know her novel The Bell Jar was based on her time at the Barbizon. A number of the characters are based on other guest editors. Bren tells us there were about fifty suicides at The Barbizon over the years. Grace Kelly stayed there a while. We learned some interesting details on her Life.
The Gibbs Secretarial School students occupied three floors for several years. Some residents stayed over forty years. Even when The hotel converted to a Condo in 2006( at a million Plus a unit) 14 elderly residents stayed on protected by rent control laws.
In 1981 hotel began to admit men. In 2004 the hotel Under went a $40 million dollar reservation.
I throughly enjoyed this book.
Paulina Bren alternates her time between the Bronx, Poughkeepsie, and MetroNorth. Born in the former Czechoslovakia, she lived in the U.K. before moving to the United States. Paulina received her B.A. from Wesleyan University, her M.A. from the Jackson School for International Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, and her Ph.D. in Modern European History from New York University.
She is the recipient of many grants and fellowships, including the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), the National Council of East European and Eurasian Research (NCEEER), the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and the Fulbright-Hays. She has held residencies at the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, the Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest, and the American Academy in Berlin. She teaches in International Studies, Women’s Studies, and Media Studies at Vassar College