Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alice B. Toklas (April 30, 1877)

In 1933 the not-yet famous Gertrude Stein wrote the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, saying she waited for Alice to write it herself, and finally gave up and did it for her. They had been together since 1907 and Stein sometimes referred to Alice as her wife. The Autobiography was Gertrude's first big success as a writer -- before that she had mainly been an influence on a generation of writers in Paris.

One of Gertrude Stein’s most often paraphrased statements was about Alice’s birthplace, Oakland, CA: when you get there, there’s no there there.

After Gertrude Stein died Stein’s family disowned Alice and took all their possessions (gay marriage didn’t exist, the “real” family got everything). To support herself, Alice wrote a cookbook memorializing the foods the two of them had enjoyed together. Alice had a second round of fame in the 1960s, shortly before her death, because of the recipe she included for cannabis brownies.

There’s every reason to believe that Gertrude and Alice observed no religion whatsoever but also never repudiated their Jewish roots: Secular. Jews.

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