Gertrude Stein

     Gertrude Stein was born on February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Stein spent her childhood in Vienna, Paris and California. She lived most of her adult life in Paris, first with her brother Leo and later with her companion, Alice B. Toklas. Her home in Paris became a salon for the expatriate writers, artists, and intellectuals who thrived in the creative energy. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sherwood Anderson revered her literary judgments, which could make or destroy reputations.

      Stein's first book, "Three Lives," was published in 1909. These stories of working-class women were deemed by the critics as a minor masterpiece. "The Making of Americans" was finished in 1908 and published in 1925, but was considered too obscure and convoluted for the public. Her poetry collection, "Tender Buttons," was published in 1914. "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas," published in 1933, was the only book that reached a wide public. This book was actually Stein's own autobiography.

      During the German occupation of France in World War II, she became a legend in Paris by surviving the persecution directed against her because of her Judaism and sexual preferences. Her home became the place to go for many lonely American servicemen and her eccentricity and friendliness brightened many soldiers' lives.

      Stein's works were experimental and not easily understood by the general public, but her influence can be seen in popular writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, who used her style of repetitive patterns with everyday speech.

      Gertrude Stein died from cancer on July 27, 1946, and is buried in Paris.

From Tender Buttons:


"Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle. So then the order is that a white way of being round is something suggesting a pin and is it disappointing, it is not, it is so rudimentary to be analysed and see a fine substance strangely, it is so earnest to have a green point not to red but to point again."


"A sentence of a vagueness that is violence is authority and a mission and stumbling and also certainly also a prison. Calmness, calm is beside the plate and in way in. There is no turn in terror. There is no volume in sound."


"A canister that is the remains of furniture and a looking-glass and a bed-room and a larger size, all the stand is shouted and what is ancient is practical. Should the resemblance be so that any little cover is copied, should it be so that yards are measured, should it be so and there be a sin, should it be so then certainly a room is big enough when it is so empty and the corners are gathered together."


Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,
Carl Van Vechten Collection