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Stein, Gertrude (1874-1946)  
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In Brewsie and Willie (1946), Stein returns to the dialogue style of her earliest published work Three Lives, and records, with evident appreciation, the contours of GI speech. The book not only discusses everything from anxieties over post-war industrialism to renewed hopes for women's rights but also subtly delineates the development of a distinct gay subculture in the camaraderie fostered by World War II.

During the mid-point of her career, Stein had also become interested in saints and landscapes, a preoccupation that not only resulted in her fanciful novel Lucy Church Amiably, which Stein and Toklas published as the first title in their Plain Edition in 1930, but also in her first opera libretto, Four Saints in Three Acts (pub. 1934), for which the American gay composer Virgil Thomson composed the music.

A modernist version of a long-standing gay and lesbian interest in saints' lives, the opera recounts, in a whimsical and meditative fashion, the harmonious efforts of a group of male and female Spanish Carmelite mystics to achieve sainthood.

In her final work, Stein once again returned to opera. Her libretto for Thomson's The Mother of Us All (1947), is her most explicitly feminist work, a moving paean to the American suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Alice Toklas appears thinly disguised as Anna Howard Shaw, Anthony's loyal compatriot, and Anthony often seems to speak for Stein herself.

Stein implicitly links her literary revolutions to Anthony's revolutionary political struggle to secure the vote for women and encourage people to live as individuals. Even as Anthony did not live to see her goals accomplished, so does Stein herself seem to realize that she may not live to see her revolution in letters brought to fruition.

In its evocative epilogue, The Mother of Us All enshrines Susan B. Anthony and Gertrude Stein as monuments to which the other women in the cast pay homage, "Not to what I won but to what was done."


When Stein died from cancer on July 27, 1946, the news made front-page headlines around the world. However, at the time her work was largely out of print and unread, and she was known principally as a personality. Only with the advent of the second wave of the women's movement, as well as the development of post-structuralist, feminist, and lesbian and gay literary criticism, has the full extent of Stein's importance as an innovator and transformer of the English language become apparent.

Corinne E. Blackmer

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Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Gertrude Stein. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Brinnin, John Malcolm. The Third Rose: Gertrude Stein and Her World. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959.

Dickie, Margaret. Stein, Bishop, and Rich: Lyrics of Love, War, and Place. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Grahn, Judy. Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with Essays by Judy Grahn. Freedom, Calif.: The Crossing Press, 1989.

Hoffman, Michael J., ed. Critical Essays on Gertrude Stein. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986.

Kellner, Bruce, ed. A Gertrude Stein Companion: Content with the Example. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Ruddick, Lisa. Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: Blackmer, Corinne E.  
    Entry Title: Stein, Gertrude  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 13, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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