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On This Gay Day | Author Gertrude Stein was born in 1874

Author Gertrude Stein was born in this day in 1874

Gertrude Stein was an acclaimed American author, playwright and art collector. Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Oakland, California, Stein moved to Paris in 1903 where she remained for the rest of her life.

She hosted a salon where leading artists and writers met and interacted, among her regular guests were Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder and F.Scott Fitzgerald. She also bought many paintings by the leading artists of the day.

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Stein published her quasi-autobiographical book The Autobiography of Alice  B Toklas in 1933. Toklas was Stein’s life partner, and the book was written from her perspective.

Stein’s fictional works often had lesbian romances and characters, and she wrote what have been identified as some of the first ‘coming out’ stories in literature. Stein also widely used the phrase ‘gay’ in her works popularising the term for homosexuality.

She returned to American for a literary tour in 1933 and had new found celebrity, her tour took her across the country, along the way she had tea with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and met film star Charlie Chaplin.

The author remained in France during the Nazi occupation and it is believed the two women, who were both Jewish, were able to survive because they had influential friends within the Vichy government.

In the 1980’s several hundred letters written between Stein and Toklas were uncovered. Stein’s endearment for Toklas was “Baby Precious”, in turn Stein was for Toklas, “Mr. Cuddle-Wuddle.

Stein died on 27th July 1946 in Paris. She passed away following surgery for stomach cancer, she was 78 years old. As Stein and Toklas’ relationship was not legally recognised many of Stein’s relatives claimed the paintings that hung in the couple’s home.

Toklas died in poverty in 1967, aged 89. She was buried next to Stein, her name inscribed on the back of her partner’s headstone.

This post was first published on 3rd February 2020. 

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