Gertrude Stein was born in 1874 February 3rd and lived to July 27th 1946. She was born in my home town of Pittsburgh Pa. At that time Pittsburgh was a mass of Steel Mills and the air was so thick you would have to wear a mask when going outside. So it's a good thing Gertrudes family moved soon after to Vienna. In fact The family would move often through out her life to Oakland Ca and back to the East Coast. She came from a well to do family and was especially close to her brother Leo Stein.
It was with Leo that she moved to 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris France. In this home she and her brother began entertaining avant guard artists and writers such as Matisse, Picasso, Thorton Wilder, and Ernest Hemmingway. Their art collection included hundreds of paintings by the masters of that time (Cezanne, Picaso, Matisse, Delacroix, Toulouse-Lautrec) and were a source of income through out her life.
Gertrude became one of the most widely quoted people of her day. Such phrases as "a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose", "It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for the future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true", and "If it can be done, Why do it?". She was the author of over 28 books and collections of poems during her life. Tender Buttons, Life with Alice B.Toklas, and Miss Fur and Miss Skeen were all books that dealt with her sexuality ; in fact Miss Fur and Miss Skeen is credited with being the first book to ever use the word GAY; and it used it over 100 times.
During the Nazi invasion of France she and Alice were in England but they went back to France to run supplies to French Hospitals. The Ford they named Auntie, "after Gertrude's aunt Pauline, 'who always behaved admirably in emergencies and behaved fairly well most times if she was flattered.'" This was a great risk to both woman's lives not only because of the war but because they were Jewish. Gertrude was not very political but she had very distinct beliefs. She disliked patriarchal father figures and found Roosevelt and Franco just as distasteful. She was never an activist in an out ward sense but she lived her life as an out woman without compromise and was the center of cultrural revolution. She was uncompromising in her relations with the world and made it face her as she was and with the partner she has found and loved all her life. Two women in a male dominated world that simply beat the odds because they felt no shame for who they were. It is women like this who inspire us today to move forward and claim our lives without compromise. It is the spirit of Gertrude Stein that is in our history over and over again showing that we are at the center of cultural, political, and social change with our open hearts and minds ever searching for beauty and justice in the world.
I find great strength in the person of Gertrude Stein. If she could just walk through life uncompromising at a time when gay liberation was far from reality; kinda like today; and influence the world around her in such amazing ways then so can anyone. She never let shame keep her from anything that she wanted. Even when in college other girls; who had been her lovers; folded under the pressure to fit in and married men, she remained faithful to her heart and soul. Her belief in herself was enough to bring her through and eventually led to one of the great love stories of all time. Thanks Gertrude for showing us how it can be in ourselves just by remaining true to ourselves. You are truly a hero for Lesbian and Gay peoples everywhere.