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Sarah Watling on The Olivier Sisters, with Jill Norgren

DEC 16, 2019 | 6:30 PM TO 8:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


1201: Elebash Recital Hall


December 16, 2019: 6:30 PM-8:00 PM






Leon Levy Center for Biography



From the beginning of their lives, the Olivier sisters stood out: surprisingly emancipated, strikingly beautiful, markedly determined, and alarmingly 'wild'. Rupert Brooke was said to be in love with all four of them; D. H. Lawrence thought they were frankly 'wrong'; Virginia Woolf found them curiously difficult to read.
The sisters seemed always to be one step ahead of their time. Margery and Daphne studied at Cambridge when education was still thought by some to be damaging to ovaries. Noel became a doctor; Daphne a pioneering teacher; Margery's promising trajectory was shot down by mental illness; Brynhild, the great beauty of the four, excelled as a Bloomsbury hostess yet gave it up for love and a life of uncertainty.

In this intimate, sweeping biography, Sarah Watling brings the sisters in from the margins, tracing lives that span colonial Jamaica, the bucolic life of Victorian progressives, the frantic optimism of Edwardian Cambridge, the bleakness of two world wars, and a host of evolving philosophies for life over the course of the twentieth century.

Sarah Watling holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and the University of London. She is an independent historian and the recipient of the 2016 Biographers' Club Tony Lothian Prize. She lives in London.

Jill Norgren is the author of three books of biography for adults including Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law; Rebels at the Bar; and Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President. She also wrote Belva Lockwood: Equal Rights Pioneer, a biography for young adults. She is emerita professor of political science and women's studies, John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY.