Gertrude Stein



      

Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was a Lesbian American writer, poet, and art collector who spent most of her life in France. Gertrude Stein, the youngest of a family of five children, was born on February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (merged with Pittsburgh in 1907) to upper-class German Jewish parents, Daniel and Amelia Stein. Her father was a railroad executive whose investments in streetcar lines and real estate made the family wealthy. In Baltimore, Stein met Claribel Cone and Etta Cone, who held Saturday evening salons that she would later emulate in Paris. The Cones shared an appreciation for art and conversation about it and modeled a domestic division of labor that Stein would replicate in her relationship with Alice B. Toklas. Stein met her life partner Alice B. Toklas on September 8, 1907, on Toklas' first day in Paris, at Sarah and Michael Stein's apartment. On meeting Stein, Toklas wrote:She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair. She was dressed in a warm brown corduroy suit. She wore a large round coral brooch and when she talked, very little, or laughed, a good deal, I thought her voice came from this brooch. It was unlike anyone else's voice — deep, full, velvety, like a great contralto's, like two voices.

During the 1920s, her salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus, with walls covered by avant-garde paintings, attracted many of the great writers of the time, including Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, and Sherwood Anderson. While she has been credited with inventing the term "Lost Generation" for some of these expatriate American writers, at least three versions of the story that led to the phrase are on record, two by Ernest Hemingway and one by Gertrude Stein. During the 1920s, she became friends with writer Mina Loy, and the two would remain lifelong friends. Extremely charming, eloquent, and cheerful, she had many friends and promoted herself often. Her judgments of literature and art were influential. She was Ernest Hemingway's mentor, and upon the birth of his son he asked her to be the godmother of his child. During the summer of 1931, Stein advised the young composer and writer Paul Bowles to go to Tangier, where she and Alice had vacationed. During the 1930s, Stein and Toklas became famous with the 1933 mass market publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. With the outbreak of World War II, Stein and Toklas relocated to a country home that they had rented for many years previously in Bilignin, Ain, in the Rhône-Alpes region. Gertrude's book "Wars I Have Seen" written before the German surrender and before the liberation of German concentration camps, likened the German army to Keystone cops..In it she expressed her opinions of Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse and Juan Gris as well as Riba-Rovira, a familiar artist of her salon at rue de Fleurus.

Stein is the author of one of the earliest coming out stories, Q.E.D. (published in 1950 as Things as They Are), written in 1903 and suppressed by the author. The story, written during travels after leaving college, is based on a three-person romantic affair she joined while studying at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The more affirming essay "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" is one of the first homosexual revelation stories to be published. The work, like Q.E.D., is informed by Stein's growing involvement with a homosexual community, though it is based on lesbian partners Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars. The work contains the word "gay" over one hundred times, perhaps the first published use of the word "gay" in reference to same-sex relationships and those who have them, and, thus, uninformed readers missed the lesbian content.

Stein died at the age of 72 from stomach cancer in Neuilly-sur-Seine on July 27, 1946, and was interred in Paris in Père Lachaise Cemetery.