Conversations from the Cullman Center: Inventing the It Girl: Hilary A. Hallett with Alice Kessler-Harris

Event Details

This Valentine’s Day, discover the story behind the modern romance novel and its connection to the life of celebrity author Elinor Glyn.

Inventing the It Girl by Hilary HallettFrom rose petals and silken lingerie to smoldering looks and lingering caresses, Elinor Glyn’s work in fiction and film laid the foundations for much of modern romance on the page and the screen. Her scandalous, sexually charged 1907 novel, Three Weeks, was simultaneously a bestseller and one of the most denounced books of its time. Working in early Hollywood films, she coined the term “It Girl” and turned actor Clara Bow into a symbol of America’s first sexual revolution.


Hilary A. Hallett’s biography, Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood, traces Glyn’s sensational life. She wrote it during her 2016–2017 Fellowship at the Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. She will be discussing the book with historian Alice Kessler-Harris.


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Hilary A. Hallett is the Mendelson Family Professor and director of American Studies and Associate Professor of History at Columbia University. She is also the author of Go West, Young Women! The Rise of Early Hollywood, and has written for the Los Angeles Times.

Alice Kessler-Harris is the R. Gordon Hoxie Professor Emerita of American History at Columbia University and Professor Emerita at Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She is the author of many books, most recently A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman.


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  • Assistive listening devices and/or hearing loops are available at the venue.
  • You can request a free ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation or CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) captioning service by emailing your request at least two weeks in advance of the event: email
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  • Captions and a transcript will be provided.
  • Media used over the course of the conversation will be accompanied by alt text and/or audio description.
  • You can request a free ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation by emailing your request at least two weeks in advance of the event: email


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The Cullman Center is made possible by a generous endowment from Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman in honor of Brooke Russell Astor, with major support provided by Mrs. John L. Weinberg, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Estate of Charles J. Liebman, The von der Heyden Family Foundation, John and Constance Birkelund, and The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and with additional gifts from Helen and Roger Alcaly, The Rona Jaffe Foundation, The Arts and Letters Foundation Inc., William W. Karatz, Merilee and Roy Bostock, and Cullman Center Fellows.