Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas: A lesbian love story
If there was great love story among the Lost Generation writers, we believe it wasn’t the one between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald but rather the long, marriage-like relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
The love affair of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas lasted for 39 years and ended only when Stein died in July 27, 1946.
Unlike the volatile, media grabbing attention marriage of the Fitzgeralds, Stein and Toklas were quiet and strong together.
Gertrude Stein meets Alice B. Toklas
The fateful meeting of Stein and Toklas was on September 8, 1907, the first day of Toklas in Paris.
Stein has been living in Paris since 1904, after living in London for a year to escape a sad love triangle while a medical student at John Hopkins School of Medicine.
“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,” Toklas described Stein upon their meeting.
“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,” she added.
The two moved in together by 1910 and never parted.
The relationship of a lifetime
Unlike the Fitzgeralds (Zelda was said to have distracted F. Scott from his writing and lessened his output), Stein and Toklas were a formidable team.
Not only was Toklas supportive of Stein’s writing, they would also entertain writers and artists in their Paris apartment.
If the walls of the Stein salon could speak, it would tell of stories about the Fitzgeralds, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Charlie Chaplin, and Henri Matisse, among others.
Toklas was known as the “wife” and was often found among the other wives during gatherings.
While Stein busied herself in making a name as a writer, Toklas took care of the house: preparing the meals, supervising the cleaning of the house, and taking care of the needs of Stein (both personal and career-wise).
Stein called her “wifey” or “baby precious” while Stein was “Mr. Cuddle-Wuddle.”
On nights when Stein would stay up late writing, she would leave notes beside the pillow while Toklas slept which she could read when she woke up the next day.
Stein would sign “Y.D.” or Your Darling.
Stein died of stomach cancer in 1946 at the age of 72. Toklas died in 1967 afterward from a long illness at the age of 89.