Sydney Biddle Barrows

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Sydney Biddle Barrows
Born (1952-01-14) January 14, 1952 (age 63)
Other names Sheila Devin
Mayflower Madam
Alma mater Fashion Institute of Technology
Occupation Madam, management consultant and writer
Spouse(s) Darnay Hoffman (1994–?)(divorced)[dated info]
Relatives Biddle family

Sydney Biddle Barrows (born January 14, 1952) is an American businesswoman who became known as an escort agency owner while using the nom de guerre Sheila Devin and later became known as the 'Mayflower Madam'. She has since become a management consultant and writer.

In October 1984, her escort service had been disbanded, and after pleading guilty for promoting prostitution, Barrows wrote a 1986 autobiography, Mayflower Madam: The Secret Life of Sydney Biddle Barrows, as a descendant of the Mayflower colonists. A later TV movie was broadcast in 1987, Mayflower Madam, starring Candice Bergen.

Early life, education and career[edit]

After her escort service was exposed and disbanded, she gained worldwide notoriety, in part because she is part of the Biddle family of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father is Donald Byers Barrows, Jr. (born 1926) and mother is Jeannette Ballantine.[1] Her grandfather Donald Byers Barrows (1898-1991) married Sydney Biddle (born July 1901), daughter of Alexander Mercer Biddle (born 1865), son of Charles John Biddle (1819-1873).[2]

Her cousin twice removed, Charles John Biddle, was an aviator in World War I, and great-great-granduncle Edward Biddle (1851-1933) married the daughter of banker Anthony Joseph Drexel.[3] On her mother's side, she is a third great-granddaughter of brewer Peter Ballantine and claimed to be a Mayflower descendant.[4][1]

Ms. Barrows is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, located in New York City. After graduation, she worked in 1975 as an assistant to Alan Snyder, bath buyer for Abraham & Straus.[5] She was introduced to the world of high-class prostitution and started her own escort service named Cachet, which existed in New York City from 1979 to 1984. Cachet offered superior service for its time, focusing on delivering a classy and elegant experience to the wealthy and powerful who either visited or lived in New York City. Some of its clients included industrialists, high-powered business executives and lawyers, foreign diplomats and Arabian oil sheiks.[citation needed]

In October 1984 her escort service was shut down, and she was charged with promoting prostitution by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. The name 'Mayflower Madam' was coined by a New York Post reporter, Peter Fearon, who broke the story of her Mayflower connections. After her guilty plea, she published a best-selling[citation needed] autobiography, Mayflower Madam: The Secret Life of Sydney Biddle Barrows (1986), in which she imparted the advice that made her service so exclusive and successful: Hire good people and pay them what they are worth. Barrows made a surprise appearance in 1987 on the late-night television series Saturday Night Live, with a parody of her book; the sketch included Candice Bergen, who played the role in the 1987 made-for-TV movie Mayflower Madam. Barrows has also written two subsequent books on modern sexual etiquette.

In late 2008, Barrows finished Uncensored Sales Strategies: A Radical New Approach to Selling Your Customers What They Really Want - No Matter What Business You're In, co-authored with marketing expert Dan Kennedy. Since the mid-late 1990s, Barrows ran a consulting business with a focus on customer service and experience.

Personal life[edit]

She was married to 'attorney of last resort' Darnay Hoffman, whose clients include Joel Steinberg, on May 14, 1994. Hoffman died in May 2011 in Biddle's apartment even though the couple had divorced.[dated info] She lives in New York City.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Haden-Guest, Anthony (December 10, 1984). "The Story of the Mayflower Madam". New York. pp. 36–43. 
  2. ^ Picton, Owen (May 2004). "Descendants of William Biddle III". Retrieved March 24, 2011. 
  3. ^ Jordan, John Woolf (1978) [1911]. Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania 1. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-8063-0811-1. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ “East Meets West as Buyers Shop Bath, Bed Show", Home Furnishings Daily, 21 May 1975, p 25.

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