Grace Kelly, Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, and Liza Minelli are just a few of the famous women who once called The Barbizon Hotel home. The Barbizon was not New York City’s first or only hotel opened exclusively to women, but it is certainly the most iconic. In her new book, The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free, which has garnered rave reviews from New York Times, Washington Post, and The New Yorker, author, and historian Paulina Bren uncovers the history of the landmarked building and the stories of the ambitious women who lived there. You can hear these stories in our upcoming virtual talk with Paulina Bren on May 12th!

Tickets to this talk are just $10, or free if you are an Untapped New York Insider! You can gain access to unlimited free virtual events per month and unlock a video archive of 100+ past virtual experiences as an Untapped New York Insider starting at $10/month. Already an Insider? Register here! If you can’t make it live, register for this event and we will send you a link to the recording once it airs!

In this Talk:

  • Discover the amenities available to women of a certain set eager to occupy the Barbizon’s rooms.
  • Ponder why Sylvia Plath tossed her carefully curated wardrobe off the roof of the Barbizon.
  • Experience the disappointment of the Barbizon residents who were not considered the “it” girls.
  • Find out who was the first man to officially go beyond the lobby level of the hotel (and not the men who claimed they had managed to sneak in).
  • Learn who “the Women” were, why they were feared, and where they are now.
Image Provide by Paulina Bren, Courtesy of Susan Camp Private Collection

In the years immediately following World War I, young, single women flocked to New York City to take advantage of the abundance of professional and educational opportunities. In order to handle the influx of single ladies, hotels catering to this specific demographic, such as The Martha Washington Hotel and the Trowmart Inn, sprung up all over the city. The most desirable option was The Barbizon Hotel for Women.

In this virtual talk, author Paulina Bren will guide you through the history of New York’s most famous women-only residential hotel from the time it opened its doors in 1928 to its transformation into luxury condominiums in 2005. Like so many other women’s hotels, the Barbizon was built to accommodate the thousands of women coming to New York in the aftermath of World War I and the women’s vote. But unlike so many others, the Barbizon survived the Great Depression, becoming a home for Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, Liza Minnelli, Cybil Shepherd, Betsey Johnson, and so many others. Yet its mission came under scrutiny with the rise of women’s equality in the 1970s, leading to a drop off in occupancy, and the necessary addition of men in 1981. The Barbizon, built for young women with an artistic sensibility, was eventually gutted and converted into multi-million dollar apartments, becoming a casualty of New York City’s post-1990s development.

Paulina Bren is an award-winning writer and historian who teaches at Vassar College. Her current book, The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free, has received international press coverage, with reviews in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The Guardian’s Sunday Observer and The Times. Paulina is also a well-known scholar of everyday life and communism behind the Iron Curtain, starting with her groundbreaking book, The Greengrocer and His TV.  She lives in New York City with her husband, teenage daughter, and schnoodle Bobo.

Inside The Barbizon Hotel

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