If you arrive in New York with a suitcase and a dream, where do you stay? For ambitious, mid-20th century women, the most coveted address was 140 East 63rd Street, the Barbizon Hotel. Famously home to such luminaries as Joan Didion, Grace Kelly and Sylvia Plath, the Barbizon served as a launch-pad for some of the 20th century’s most dazzling careers, and offered women dedicated space to build lives in New York. Check in and check out the history of the Barbizon during this virtual book talk with historian Paulina Bren, author of The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free. Bren will take us inside the Barbizon, and explore the hotel’s place in 20th century cultural history, when “Barbizon” was a byword for beauty and ambition, and the hotel stood at a crossroads between newfound freedom for women, and the stifling strictures of tradition.
Paulina Bren is an award-winning writer and historian who teaches at Vassar College. Her recent book, The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free, is a New York Times Editor’s Choice and has received international press coverage, with reviews in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The London Times, among others. In addition, Paulina is a well-known scholar of everyday life and communism behind the Iron Curtain, starting with her groundbreaking book, The Greengrocer and His TV, which cast the first line in what is now a new field of study. She lives in New York City with her husband, teenage daughter, and a schnoodle named Bobo.