The opening of Julie Satow’s latest book, When Women Ran Fifth Avenue: Glamour and Power at the Dawn of American Fashion, opens with a tantalizing, little-known, but thematically familiar true story. An established businessman underestimates a woman, to the peril of his own career. Satow, whose first book The Plaza was an acclaimed hit about the most famous of New York City’s hotels, writes like a novelist. It helps that the real-life characters have names that sound plucked straight from a mid-century novel.

As ice gathered several inches thick on the Hudson River and the mercury plummeted belong freezing, Hortense Odlum stepped from her chaffeured car onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk.

Dorothy Shaver in her office in the 1920s
Dorothy Shaver in her office in the 1920s. Photo courtesy Double Day.

When Women Ran Fifth Avenue is the story of several women who found their way into the fashion world in New York City, over the course of half a decade. There was Hortense Odlum, the guileless wife of department store Bonwit Teller‘s new owner who has an untapped business acumen. Oklahomans Dorothy and Elsie Shaver who arrived in New York City with just a suitcase between them and created the bestselling Little Shaver dolls which were featured in Lord & Taylor’s holiday windows and then opened up their own store. Dorothy Shaver eventually becomes the first female president at Lord & Taylor’s. And Geraldine Stutz who ushered in the heyday of the Henri Bendel store.

Dorothy Shaver
Dorothy Shaver. Photo courtesy Doubleday.

Appearing as secondary characters throughout the book are the celebrities, artists, nobles, and politicians including the likes of Salvador Dalí, Truman Capote, Lauren Bacall, Coco Chanel, Amelia Earhart, Princess Grace of Monaco, Katherine Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol, even Adolf Hitler. There are also the more modern-day fashionistas, businessmen and women, and influencers, like Anna Wintour, Linda Evangelista, Leslie Wexner, and Christie Brinkley,

Elsie Shaver at her penthouse apartment
Elsie Shaver in her penthouse apartment. Photo courtesy Doubleday.

On June 19, we are so pleased to welcome Julie Satow to our June “Lit Salon,” a candlelit literary salon in a historic brownstone. We pair the books we feature with bespoke cocktails and music inspired by the time period and topic of the book. For the When Women Ran Fifth Avenue Lit Salon, we will be serving the Manhattan cocktail. I (Michelle Young, the founder of Untapped New York and the author of the forthcoming narrative non-fiction book, The Art Spy,) will tap into my formative first career as a fashion merchandiser. I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in the heyday of the brand in the mid-aughts with Mike Jeffries, then J.Crew with Mickey Drexler, and finally at Calvin Klein, where I was part of the team that launched Calvin Klein’s White Label. I’m so looking forward to my conversation with Julie where we can get deep into both New York City history and fashion history. I will also be joined on stage by Justin Rivers, Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer whose knowledge of Fifth Avenue (he created our Gilded Age Fifth Avenue tour!) and New York City’s history is truly outstanding. Even if you can’t join in person, you can stream the event virtually and also purchase an autographed copy of the book.

When Women Ran Fifth Avenue Lit Salon

Book Livestream

When Women Ran 5th Avenue book cover and author headshot

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