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Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Postcard of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Helaine Victoria Press
Postcard of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Postmarked 1977
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) and Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967) have iconic status in the history of both twentieth-century literature and lesbian culture. Raised in Oakland and San Francisco respectively, the two women met in Paris in 1907. Stein sought to revitalize language and connect it with inner experience, to articulate consciousness through abstract, repetitive, rhythmical texts evoking "the excitingness of pure being." With her brother Leo Stein, she amassed one of the first collections of avant-garde painting, with an emphasis on Cubism. By the 1920s, Stein and Toklas' home at 27 Rue de Fleurus became the site of a salon frequented by the most significant artists and writers of the time, notably Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Marsden Hartley, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and Paul Bowles. The resonance between Stein’s writing and the experiments of the Cubist painters was at the heart of the convivial, intellectually vibrant gatherings. Stein coined the term "the lost generation" to describe some of the writers, and her judgments on art and literature were profoundly influential. While Stein held forth among the men, Toklas, known for her culinary skills, led the women away to chat about food and fashion.

Cover of
Helaine Victoria Press
Postcard of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Postmarked 1977
Toklas managed the couple's domestic life and meticulously proofread and typed all of Stein's manuscripts. Several rare Stein works are housed in the library's Book Arts & Special Collections Center. Two Poems is a fine-press book printed posthumously in 1948 (with copyright by Alice B. Toklas). A Book Concluding With As a Wife Has a Cow is a [limited] edition facsimile of a book published in France in 1926. It was reissued in 1973, with facsimiles of the original lithographs by Juan Gris. An example of Toklas' delicate handwriting is seen in the letter to Donald H. Frank, the son of a childhood friend. The postcard, showing Gertrude and Alice at home together amidst their paintings, was sent by the poet Elsa Gidlow to her publisher Barbara Grier, of Naiad Press, in 1977.