Barbara Holdridge received an B.A., cum laude, from Hunter College, New York, in 1950, with a major in Humanities, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She then took graduate Humanities courses at Columbia University, but soon turned her efforts to cofounding Caedmon Records in New York, with a similarly literary college friend. Caedmon was the pioneer in spoken-word recordings, and eventually, after much struggle, became a multi-million dollar company, recording readings by Dylan Thomas, whose A Child’s Christmas in Wales became a beloved international favorite. Other recordings included the works of Ernest Hemingway, Marianne Moore, e.e. cummings, Colette and many others. The importance of Caedmon recordings in the history of the spoken word and contemporary culture has been widely acknowledged, and the entire thriving spoken-word industry of today owes its origins to Caedmon. Currently, Caedmon is part of HarperCollins Publishers.
After selling Caedmon in 1970, and remaining as president of the reorganized company for five years, she founded Stemmer House Publishers in 1975, and sold it upon retiring in 2003. Stemmer House was the first general book publishing company in Maryland, publishing both fiction and nonfiction. From 1987 to 1990, she taught book publishing and writing at Loyola College as an Adjunct Professor. Her creation of Apprentice House Publishers as a hands-on learning project for her courses has been adopted as an on-going publishing entity by the Loyola Department of Communication.
Since moving to Maryland in 1959, her volunteer activities include current membership on the board of Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association of Greater Baltimore, as well as former participation in the Parks Committee of the Citizens Planning and House Association in Baltimore, along with other activism.
In addition, Barbara Holdridge is the recognized co-discoverer and researcher, with her late husband Larry Holdridge, of the 19th century American portrait painter Ammi Phillips, previously displayed in leading museums as several unknown American masters. A United States postage stamp also honors this now-famous American artist. For their important contribution to art, Barbara and Larry Holdridge were honored by New York’s Museum of American Folk Art.
As the owner, for 38 years, of the 18th-century Stemmer House, a Georgian architectural gem located in Owings Mills, she has developed award-winning gardens that are included on Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage and Maryland Horticultural Society tours. She has preserved the mansion with dedication as a unique contribution to Maryland’s architectural heritage. For this continuing labor of love, she received an award from the Baltimore County Historical Trust in 2007, as well as two preservation grants to date.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2011.