We are always the same age inside.
– Gertrude Stein
The author of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was born on this day in 1874.
Gertrude Stein, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1935
Born February 3, 1874
Allegheny, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died July 27, 1946 (aged 72)
Occupation Writer, poet
Literary movement Modernist literature
Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was a noted American art collector of seminal modernist paintings and an experimental writer of novels, poetry and plays, which eschewed the narrative, linear, and temporal conventions of 19th century literature. She was born in West Allegheny (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, raised in Oakland, California, and moved to Paris in 1903, making France her home for the remainder of her life.
For some forty years, the Stein home on the Left Bank of Paris would become a renowned Saturday evening gathering place for expatriate American artists and writers, and others noteworthy in the world of vanguard arts and letters. Entrée and membership in the Stein salon was a sought-after validation, signifying that Stein had recognized a talent worthy of inclusion into a rarefied group of gifted artists.
Stein became combination mentor, critic, and guru to those who gathered around her. A self-defined “genius”, she was described as an imposing figure with a commanding manner whose inordinate self-confidence could intimidate. Among her coterie she was referred to as “Le Stein” and with less laudatory deference as “The Presence.”
In 1933, Stein published the memoirs of her Paris years titled The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which became a literary bestseller. The advent of this book elevated Stein from the relative obscurity of cult literary figure, into the light of mainstream attention.
Near the end of her life Stein pronounced: “I always wanted to be historical from almost a baby on, I felt that way about it…”