I think I’d want to add at least one additional woman to Virginia Postrel’s list of women who “helped to define by their example what it meant to be a ‘modern woman’” and it’s someone who might surprise you: Ethel Barrymore.
Most of us who know who she was remember Ethel Barrymore, sister of John and Lionel, as a regal dowager in movies of the 1940s like The Farmer’s Daughter, The Paradine Case, and (a favorite of mine) Portrait of Jennie. However, forty years before when she was the toast of Broadway (pictured at left) a phrase was coined to describe her: glamor girl. She was the original glamor girl. For that reason alone she’s worth a mention.