5 Things You Didn't Know About...Gertrude Stein

By: Clare Whitaker

Born to a wealthy family in Pennsylvania, Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) spent much of her childhood moving about. Her thirst for culture and art was cultivated by her worldly upbringing. She spent much of her adulthood in Paris, building relationships with budding artists and writers. Known for her personal writing and literary theory, she called legends such as Picasso, Matisse, and Hemingway dear friends.

  1. While she was taking her final examinations at Radcliffe College, she wrote on her paper, “Dear Professor James, I am so sorry but I do not feel a bit like an examination in philosophy”. The response: “Dear Miss Stein, I understand perfectly how you feel. I often feel like that myself.” She received the highest mark in the class.
  2. She studied medicine for four years at Johns Hopkins University, after studying at Radcliffe. She didn’t receive a degree from either place; as she was purely interested only in studies and bored by tests. 
  3. During WWI she drove a car down the lines passing out supplies to soldiers and visiting hospitals. 
  4. She acted as an almost maternal figure to what was referred to as “the lost generation.” This generation flourished throughout France during the time between the two wars and included the likes of the Fitzgeralds, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway. 
  5. Gertrude Stein loved baseball and she joined her girlfriends, Zelda, Dottie, and Alice each summer playing the sport on team “Le Gang Stein.” 

(photograph: Stein with partner Alice B. Toklas in the 1930's via The Red List)