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Anderson, Margaret (1886-1973)  
page: 1  2  

In 1916 Anderson met Jane Heap, whom she recruited as a writer for--and eventually co-editor of--The Little Review. Heap also became the first of what Anderson called "all my lovely companions."

Anderson was frank about her rejection of traditional heterosexual roles. "I am no man's wife, no man's delightful mistress, and I will never, never, never be a mother," she wrote. She chose instead to share her life with a series of female partners, beginning with Heap.

The two women were distinctly different, both physically and in temperament. Anderson, ebullient and ever optimistic, is revealed in Man Ray's photograph of her in the frontispiece of My Thirty Years' War as a classic and stylish beauty. A portrait of Heap by Berenice Abbott shows her in masculine attire and sporting a short haircut that emphasized her mannish features. Of a more pessimistic and depressive turn of mind than Anderson, Heap was often disconcerted by Anderson's irrepressible confidence and bold decision-making, however unlikely the plan.

Shortly after Heap had joined The Little Review and she and Anderson had begun living together, Anderson moved the operation to San Francisco. The arrangement was not a success, and so Anderson decided to return to Chicago, but, she wrote, "at once I knew we should go to New York." Heap had misgivings about the plan, but Anderson, as always confident and determined once she had made a decision, prevailed.

The Little Review offered its readers the works of Djuna Barnes, William Butler Yeats, Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane, and Ford Madox Ford, among others. Ezra Pound, with whom Anderson had been corresponding for several years, proposed himself as foreign editor, a suggestion that she readily embraced. Pound was able to secure works by T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and James Joyce.

The Little Review began serializing Joyce's Ulysses (published in full in 1922) in 1918 and continued presenting excerpts through 1920. As a result, the United States Post Office seized and burned several numbers of the magazine. Co-editors Anderson and Heap were charged with obscenity for publishing Joyce's work. Found guilty, they had to pay a fine of one hundred dollars. Following the trial, they went to France, where they reveled in the freer social atmosphere of Paris, where "they looked on lesbians as a charming race of people."

In 1924 Anderson and Heap began studying together under the mystic George Gurdjieff. Despite this bond, their relationship was strained. Anderson felt that "the tenth anniversary of the Little Review . . . [was] . . . its logical conclusion," but Heap was determined to keep it going and did so until 1929. She later moved to England, where she continued studying and working with Gurdjieff.

Anderson had meanwhile fallen in love with Georgette Leblanc, a classical singer and the widow of Belgian Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck. She described her relationship with Leblanc as one of freedom and harmony and without the emotional tumult that she and Heap had experienced. The couple remained together for twenty-one years.

They moved to Europe, planning a concert tour for Leblanc with Anderson as her accompanist. When financial backers reneged on promised support, the tour was cancelled, and the two women went to live with Leblanc's rich but miserly relatives, in one of whose generally unheated homes Leblanc caught pneumonia. The couple relocated to an abandoned lighthouse and then to a house in Le Cannet, a few miles north of Cannes.

Anderson subsequently wrote a three-part autobiography--My Thirty Years' War, The Fiery Fountains (1951), and The Strange Necessity (1969)--and a book on the teachings of her mentor, The Unknowable Gurdjieff (1962), and edited The Little Review Anthology (1953, 1969).

Leblanc died of cancer in late 1941. Only after her death did Anderson return to the United States, for fear of what might befall her as an American in Nazi-occupied France. Aboard a ship bound for America in the summer of 1942, she met Dorothy Caruso, the widow of tenor Enrico Caruso. The two lived together until Caruso's death in 1955, whereupon Anderson returned to the house in Le Cannet that she had shared with Leblanc.

In the 1950s Anderson wrote a lesbian novel, Forbidden Fires, a veiled account of her unrequited longing for English actress Josephine Plows Day, a topic not discussed in her autobiographies. The other relationships of the first-person narrator, Margaret, mirror Anderson's experiences with Heap and Leblanc. Anderson was unsuccessful in finding a publisher, and the novel did not appear in print until 1996.

Reviewer Margaret Kissam Morris states that "Anderson's openness in the novel is astonishing, and we can only speculate about the effect the book would have had if it had been published earlier." Diane Hamer echoes the thought, describing it as "striking" that Anderson employed "the word 'lesbian,' which is not used so frequently by her contemporaries in their autobiographies or fiction." (Anderson also avoided it in the autobiographies.) Hamer concludes that Anderson's "is one voice that speaks volumes about her lifestyle, unlike so many of the others who lived their lesbian lives without talking about it explicitly. As such, she remains much more of a foremother to the contemporary lesbian movement than might previously have been thought."

Anderson spent her final years in the house in Le Cannet. She died there on October 19, 1973 and was buried next to her "lovely companion" Leblanc.

Linda Rapp

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Anderson, Margaret. The Fiery Fountains: The Autobiography: Continuation and Crisis to 1950. New York: Hermitage House, 1951.

_____. Forbidden Fires. Mathilda Hills, ed. Tallahassee, Fla.: Naiad Press, 1996.

_____. My Thirty Years' War: An Autobiography. New York: Covici, Friede, 1930.

_____. The Strange Necessity: The Autobiography: Resolutions and Reminiscence to 1969. New York: Horizon Press, 1969.

Green, Michelle Erica. "Making No Compromises with Critical Taste: The War for The Little Review." 1997.

Hamer, Diane. "Getting Around in Paris." The Gay & Lesbian Review 3.2 (April 30, 1996): 43.

Morris, Margaret Kissam. "Radiant of Heart." The Lesbian Review of Books 3.1 (October 31, 1996): 18.

Rule, Jane. "Margaret Anderson." Lesbian Images. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1975. 147-156.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Anderson, Margaret  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated March 16, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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