They were smart. Sassy. Daring. Exotic. Eclectic. Sexy. And influential. One could call them the first divas -- and they ran absolutely wild. They were poets, actresses, singers, artists, journalists, publishers, baronesses, and benefactresses. They were thinkers and they were drinkers. They eschewed the social conventions expected of them--to be wives and mothers--and decided to live on their own terms. In the process, they became the voices of a new, fierce feminine spirit.
There's Mina Loy, a modernist poet and much-photographed beauty who traveled in pivotal international art circles; blues divas Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters; Edna St. Vincent Millay, the lyric poet who, with her earthy charm and passion, embodied the '20s ideal of sexual daring; the avant-garde publishers Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap; and the wealthy hostesses of the salons, A'Lelia Walker and Mabel Dodge. Among the supporting cast are Emma Goldman, Isadora Duncan, Ma Rainey, Margaret Sanger, and Gertrude Stein.
Andrea Barnet's fascinating accounts of the emotional and artistic lives of these women -- together with rare black-and-white photographs, taken by photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Man Ray--capture the women in all their glory.
This is a history of the early feminists who didn't set out to be feminists, a celebration of the rebellious women who paved the way for future generations.
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Reviews of All-Night Party
The New Yorker, April 2004
"This eclectic assortment of the daring, the devastating, and the derelict includes hostesses like Mabel Dodge and A’Lelia Walker, singers like Ethel Waters, and the editors of the Little Review. Barnet paints her subjects as pioneering feminists in revolt against established mores."
Publishers Weekly, March 2004
"Barnet engagingly illustrations this extraordinary period of cultural freedom for American women...[Her] treatment of his scintillating era is as lively and appealing as the women she's writing about."
"Risk-taking and the writing life: Long-time downtown resident with a new book on Bohemian women," DowntownExpress, September 2004, Aileen Torres
Profile and interview of Andrea Barnet. "Barnet’s book reveals the character of these historic figures by exploring their internal and external struggles, sketching these bold personalities as the storyteller she chose to become."
Foreword Magazine, September 2004, Emily Mead
"...Barnet does fully capture the gleefully subversive ethos of life as performance art, and the air of lawless idealism that briefly raised dissent and transgression to an art form."
Bust Magazine, Spring 2004, Emily Rems
"Barnet's style will remind you of lectures by the best history teacher you ever had. Her work is meticulously researched and of a high academic caliber, but her flair for storytelling and enthusiasm for this endlessly fascinating subject makes each juicy chapter go down as deliciously as an E! True Hollywood Story."
The Country and Abroad, August 2004, Sunny MacMillan
"It's summer, tantalizing us with dreams of fresh lemonade and "a good read." This is the perfect book. You can't help wondering what drove these women, what energized them, what kept them going until they almost literally collapsed...The narrative of this engaging book rarely fails to deliver. Anarchists "of spirit" and sexuality as well as politics, these women had tremendous self-confidence....Barnet's liberal use of photographs and references enhances her fascinating portraits in text. It's a gem."
Elle, April 2004
"Regardless of your degree of knowledge about this remarkable era, you'll find something--and someone--to celebrate in this comprehensive, consistently entertaining volume."
Library Journal, March 2004
"Barnet displays a gift for re-creating these flawed but fascinating individuals. An epilog makes a good case for the continuing relevance of these women and their stories; Barnet is to be especially commended for giving equal voice to the women of Harlem who, as a group, have been too long neglected. The informal style, supported by obviously serious scholarship, makes this work suitable for both public and academic libraries."
Booklist, March 2004, Whitney Scott
"The span between 1913 and 1930 was a time of scandal-laced creativity for New York City's fierce Bohemian spirits, who tended to congregate in two centers: Greenwich Village and Harlem. Barnet focuses on that era's bold feminists, including Mina Loy, a beautiful modernist poet, and Margaret Anderson and her lover, Jane Heap, founders of the famed Little Review. These blazing talents crossed paths with other creative women, such as the sexually daring poet Edna St. Vincent Millay; social activists Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger; the revolutionary dancer Isadora Duncan; and blues divas Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith. They met at (in)famous salons like Mabel Dodge's, and their creative cross-pollinations were to shape an age, attitude, and a feminist movement for decades to come. Barnet's beautifully detailed portraits of these pioneering women are delicately shaded, filled with resonating emotional nuance, and surrounded by such stellar supporting characters as Carl Van Vechten, Edmund Wilson, and Djuna Barnes. Boasting Man Ray photos and Beatrice Wood drawings, copious end notes and bibliography, All Night Party is sure to arouse great interest."
The Boston Globe, March 2004, "Short Takes" by Barbara Fisher
"Andrea Barnet persuasively and delightfully presents these women as the first generation of feminists, the women who 'blasted the door open to the rest of the century, leaving it to us to imagine future lives as stunningly original as theirs.'"