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Cramoisy Queen

Cramoisy Queen

A Life of Caresse Crosby

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Linda Hamalian


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
6 x 9


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About the Book

Caresse Crosby rejected the culturally prescribed roles for women of her era and background in search of an independent, creative, and socially responsible life. Poet, memoirist, advocate of women’s rights and the peace movement, Crosby published and promoted modern writers and artists such as Hart Crane, Dorothy Parker, Salvador Dalí, and Romare Bearden. She also earned a place in the world of fashion by patenting one of the earliest versions of the brassiere.

Behind her public success was a chaotic life: three marriages, two divorces, the suicide of her husband Harry Crosby, strained relationships with her children, and legal confrontations over efforts to establish a center for world peace. As the first biographer to consider both the literary and social contexts of Crosby’s life, Linda Hamalian details Crosby’s professional accomplishments and her personal struggles. The Cramoisy Queen: A Life of Caresse Crosby also measures the impact of small presses on modernist literature and draws connections between key writers and artists of the era.

In addition to securing a place for Crosby in modern literary and cultural history, The Cramoisy Queen: A Life of Caresse Crosby contributes to the field of textual studies, specifically the complexities of integrating autobiography and correspondence into biography. Enhanced by thirty-two illustrations, the volume appeals to a wide range of readers, including literary critics, cultural historians, biographers, and gender studies specialists.


Linda Hamalian is a professor of English at William Paterson University. She is the author of A Life of Kenneth Rexroth and coeditor of Solo: Women on Woman Alone.


“Caresse Crosby . . . was a major influence on much of the most important writing in English produced in the twentieth century, and as such fully warrants this biography that succeeds so assiduously in avoiding mere hyperbole to tell the story of a most unusual, talented, brilliant woman.”—The Literary Review

"The Cramoisy Queen is a great page-turning read. Caresse Crosby is a larger-than-life character, and Linda Hamalian retells her life in a way that's gossipy and erudite, informative and thought-provoking. How did the inventor of the brassiere come to be  - among other things - a free-loving flapper, a patron of the arts, a poet, a publisher of exquisite books by the great writers of her era, and a determined activist for world peace? Hamalian's beautifully written portrait of an artist as a young woman, as a midlife widow, and as a feisty old lady needs to be savored for inspiration as a widow into the questions we're still asking about what women want and how they can get it."—Emily Toth, biographer, and author of Kate Chopin, Unveiling Kate Chopin, and Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious.

"Better than reading Fitzgerald, for the dazzling and complicated world of artists and expats in the twenties and thirties, Linda Hamalian's The Cramoisy Queen also guides us through the post-World War II forties, the fifties, and the swinging sixties to follow the escapades that accompanied Caresse Crosby's life at Black Sun Press and beyond. A web connecting the rich and famous, including the idealistic search of so many artists for world peace, is beautifully woven in this meticulously researched biography."—Diane Wakoski, author of more than twenty collections of poetry, including, The Butcher's Apron