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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

MA in Women's History


Women’s History Graduate Program


In the vibrant cultural landscape of Paris during the interwar years, Sylvia Beach, the proprietor of the English-language bookshop Shakespeare and Company is often called the “midwife to modernism.” Shakespeare and Company is remembered as an institution that connected the geniuses of the 1920s; Sylvia as the woman who facilitated those connections. This thesis questions this narrative and reconsiders Sylvia Beach and the role she played in modernist, interwar Paris. Through an analysis of Sylvia Beach’s early suffrage work, feminist sensibility, and collaborations with radical French activists, this thesis uncovers the forgotten feminist roots of this space remembered as a headquarters of male literary genius. Much more than a “midwife,” Sylvia Beach created a space that encouraged women to engage in the intellectual public sphere in a way that confronted both economically and socially constructed barriers in post-war France. Through this work she radically changed literary culture forever.