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History Camp Discussions
Thursday, September 12  @ 8 pm Eastern
Julie Satow
When Women Ran Fifth Avenue: Glamour and Power at the Dawn of American Fashion

From the Publisher:

The twentieth century American department store: a palace of consumption where every wish could be met under one roof – afternoon tea, a stroll through the latest fashions, a wedding (or funeral) planned. It was a place where women, shopper and shopgirl alike, could stake out a newfound independence. Whether in New York or Chicago or on Main Street, USA, men owned the buildings, but inside, women ruled.

In this hothouse atmosphere, three women rose to the top. In the 1930s, Hortense Odlum of Bonwit Teller came to her husband’s department store as a housewife tasked with attracting more shoppers like herself, and wound up running the company. Dorothy Shaver of Lord & Taylor championed American designers during World War II–before which US fashions were almost exclusively Parisian copies–becoming the first businesswoman to earn a $1 million salary. And in the 1960s Geraldine Stutz of Henri Bendel re-invented the look of the modern department store. With a preternatural sense for trends, she inspired a devoted following of ultra-chic shoppers as well as decades of copycats.

In When Women Ran Fifth Avenue, journalist Julie Satow draws back the curtain on three visionaries who took great risks, forging new paths for the women who followed in their footsteps. This stylish account, rich with personal drama and trade secrets, captures the department store in all its glitz, decadence, and fun, and showcases the women who made that beautifully curated world go round.


“Ms. Satow’s carefully researched book is compulsively readable: I found myself dashing through it like a novel. She portrays the women with verve; we get a glimpse into their lives, as well as a sense of what it was like at each of these retail meccas.” —The Wall Street Journal

“The latest example of great shopping writing . . . Satow could have focused on the stores alone, with their array of delightful bygone details. But by following Odlum, Shaver, and Stutz, she posits that women, in shaping retail, invented the American fashion industry. . . the worlds they built were largely forgotten, until Satow revived their legacies.” –The Washington Post

“Julie Satow celebrates the savvy leaders who made Bonwit, Bendel’s and Lord & Taylor into retail meccas of their moment. . . Clever . . . [Odlum, Shaver, and Stutz] are a force” –The New York Times

“A fascinating excavation of the midcentury woman . . . whose designs and ideas reinvented American department stores and consumer fashion.” –The Chicago Tribune

Join us at HistoryCamp.org/discussions for this free event and watch replays of earlier interviews, presentations, and discussions.

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History Camp® events presented by The Pursuit of History®

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