Elected a “Living Landmark” (by the New York Landmark Conservancy and its affiliates), awarded the Order of Merit by the Republic of Poland, elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, writer Barbara Goldsmith enjoys a notable career as a master of a subtle yet stunning combination of history and biography. Through exhaustive research, her real people function in their own time and environment. Goldsmith’s much imitated innovative approach is enlightening. In her books, her main characters serve as a locomotive that pulls the train of history to form a gripping narrative.
Goldsmith has consistently examined the vast disparity between image and reality. Her clear vision illuminates both the valuable and the meretricious aspects of our society. With a fresh view she reminds us of the delights in life, but also she has become one of our foremost commentators on the idols and subcultures– the political, financial, legal, celebrity and artistic establishments– through whom she explores our self-created illusions, our decaying values, our lost idealism.
Goldsmith's books are now available on Amazon Kindle and Audible. Now translated into twenty-one languages, Goldsmith’s latest book Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie is based on the workbooks, letters, and diaries of Marie Curie recently released after being sealed for sixty years. Among other awards, this book won the prestigious prize from the American Institute of Physics and its thirteen affiliates as the best book on Physics written by a non-physicist. Author Brenda Maddox in the Sunday New York Times wrote a “Poignant and scientifically lucid portrait . . . Excellent.” Goldsmith’s previous award-winning, best-selling books include The Straw Man, Little Gloria . . . Happy At Last, Johnson v. Johnson, and Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull. For several years, she was the Senior Editor of Harper’s Bazaar. She has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.
Among her previous works, Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull is a sweeping non-fiction account of a little known era of robber barons, railroad tycoons, unscrupulous politicians, and of the women who desperately struggled to gain equality and the vote. Her swift narrative focuses on the life of Victoria Woodhull, a woman whose ideas on political and sexual equality were a century before her time.
Other Powers received acclaim from critics: The New York Times hailed it as an “absorbing, sweeping book…the richness of its narrative, the complex and morally nuanced portraits of its characters…the compelling narrative power. Woodhull is a fabulously rich character [but] Goldsmith goes far beyond her eventful life. Other Powers is a portrait of an age. You finish it nearly out of breath astonished at the tragic heroism of the flawed character who tried to challenge the American Establishment.” – Richard Bernstein. “Hugely entertaining. This is history at its finest: vivid, inclusive, insightful” – Booklist. “One of our foremost historians has brilliantly woven a scrupulously documented and vivid tapestry of an era . . . Other Powers is memorable,” said Robert Caro. "This brilliant story of a remarkable woman illuminates the vagaries of religion, sex, finance and feminism in Victorian America," wrote Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Professor Ellen Carol DuBois wrote, “That rarest of all combinations, a scholarly biography that reads like a page-turning novel.”
Barbara Goldsmith’s other books include, Johnson v. Johnson, an account of the longest, most expensive, most sensational will contest in United States history. A nationwide bestseller Johnson v. Johnson, The Washington Post Book World found the book “Brilliant and gripping ... I hadn't counted on Barbara Goldsmith who somehow persuaded the combatants on both sides to level with her...The accumulated tawdriness seems part of some mythic destiny.” “A Rattling Good Read!” – Barron's. “Intriguing...a shadowy Gothic family drama” – The New York Times Book Review. “Fascinating...Brilliant” – The San Francisco Chronicle.
In the now classic Little Gloria...Happy at Last Goldsmith illuminated another remarkable episode in American history and created a compelling nonfiction narrative that soared to the top of bestseller lists and was hailed by critics. A “literary masterpiece...the skill of Proust,” wrote Alden Whitman. “It will become the standard by which social history is judged” – Newsweek. “This incredible book has it all!...Prodigiously researched, it has vast range and delineates an era that could not happen again. Staggering, gripping, confounding and informative, it is extraordinary” – Vogue. Little Gloria...Happy at Last went on to become a Paramount film and a major N.B.C. television mini-series starring Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Plummer, and Maureen Stapleton among others.
Her keen observation and penetrating writing turned toward the art world in her first book, the highly acclaimed novel The Straw Man. Praised in a review by John Kenneth Galbraith as “Remarkably entertaining –top notch social history.” Tom Wolfe wrote, “Reportorial verve...How could other novelists have let this great rich vulpine Culture-preened preserve of late-twentieth-century New York high life go unexplored all this time? They don’t have Barbara Goldsmith’s knowledge, insights...dead aim and high velocity.” The late Truman Capote wrote, “Brilliant, knowing, understanding...a witty oasis among recent fictions—if it is fiction”.
Goldsmith’s New Yorker article “Women on the Edge,” an in-depth study on New York’s street-walking prostitute population, sparked a 20/ 20 documentary. Throughout her career, Goldsmith has set new standards of excellence. Her work was selected for inclusion in The New Journalism, Tom Wolfe’s anthology of America’s most notable and innovative writers. In her provocative and prescient 1983, New York Times essay, “The Meaning of Celebrity,” she explored the dangerous consequences of a society obsessed with celebrity images, well before any other writer recognized this phenomenon.
Barbara Goldsmith is the recipient of four doctorates, honoris causa, and has received the Presidential Citation of New York University. She has won numerous other awards including several New York Times notable books, Association of American Publishers Best Non-fiction, Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, Boston Globe Best Book, the National Archives Award for her outstanding contributions to literature, the Poets & Writers Lifetime Achievement Award, the Brandeis Library Trust Award for outstanding writing, the Women’s Project Literary award, two Presidential literary citations, two Emmys, the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.
She has been elected to the Council on Foreign Relations, the President’s Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History, the commission on Preservation and Access, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Public Library Literary Lions, where she serves as a Trustee. She is a member of the Authors Guild and Poets & Writers. She served as an Overseer of the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College and received the rarely given Alumnae Achievement Award from Wellesley College.
Goldsmith was a Founding Editor of New York magazine and the author of the widely-imitated series, “The Creative Environment,” in which she interviewed such subjects as Marcel Breuer, I. M. Pei, and Pablo Picasso about their creative process. She persuaded Picasso to donate his monumental three-story statue, “Sylvette,” to New York University.
Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, has named Barbara Goldsmith as one of the ten most enlightened philanthropists in America. In her writing for public service, Goldsmith donated the fees from her book Johnson v. Johnson to Parents United, an amalgamation of 139 community groups that deal with incest survivors. Her efforts generated much sympathy and openness about this difficult subject. She was requested by Betty Ford to write the initial story of the founding of the Betty Ford Clinic for addiction to drugs and alcohol. The former first lady wrote that the sensitive way the author treated this story put her clinic “on the map” and encouraged people to “come-out” about their problems.
Goldsmith is at the forefront of the effort to preserve our written heritage. She helped accomplish the Herculean task of organizing this country’s most influential writers and publishers to publish their hardcover books on cost-comparable permanent paper (which lasts 300 years instead of disintegrating in 30) and spearheaded a landmark event in which forty of the nation's most influential trade-book publishers and 2,500 writers signed a Declaration that they would only be printed on permanent paper, thus insuring our cultural heritage. Ms. Goldsmith has often testified before the congressional committees on the importance of writer’s grants and on the preservation of our written heritage. She helped effect a $20 million annual increase in the budget of the National Endowment of the Humanities for paper preservation. In 2010 the New York Public Library Services Center, a 126,000 square foot building with over 200 experts dedicated to the written word, now houses the state-of-the-art Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Divisions.
Goldsmith has led a crusade for human rights and freedom of expression. Twenty years ago she conceived the annual Barbara Goldsmith/PEN Freedom to Write Awards that consistently turn the media spotlight on writers imprisoned for expressing their views and has invariably seen them released. Of the thirty-eight writers imprisoned, missing, or tortured at the time of her award, thirty-four were set free. The PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award was instrumental in starting the campaign that led to the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo winning the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Goldsmith's career began at age twenty-one when, shortly after her graduation from Wellesley College, she landed an assignment to interview the legendary Clark Gable. The mother of three and six grandchildren, Barbara Goldsmith lives in New York City and East Hampton, Long Island.