The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free


Paulina Bren

The Barbizon is a famous hotel in New York City that allowed women residents only. Many famous women including Grace Kelly, Ali MacGraw, Cybil Shepard, Joan Didion and Sylvia Plath stayed at the infamous hotel. As a hotel for women only, The Barbizon was the place that out-of-town parents had some level of comfort that their aspiring daughters could be safe. From the time the hotel opened through the mid-1950s, women were not expected to roam freely around the city.

The story is largely told through the lens of the Mademoiselle Magazine General Editor Program. Young women from across the nation vied for this coveted opportunity to spend several weeks working at the magazine and living at the Barbizon. For many women who aspired to being more than a housewife, the experience gave them the courage to remain in or return to New York to pursue their dreams.

The author also focuses extensively on Sylvia Plath whose book, The Bell Jar, is based on Plath’s time at the Barbizon. The Barbizon was a symbol of changing times when women were pursuing careers outside the home and enjoying more sexual freedom. I very much enjoyed a look back on this famous hotel and how it shaped the lives of women and enabled many to take on a career.