A Timeline of Gertrude Stein: a biography of major points in her life, as told through the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

In creating this timeline of Gertrude Stein’s life, I chose to focus on pivotal places, publications, and people with whom she developed relationships. Putting these major events in her life into chronological order helped me make sense of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and made it easier to see where and when scenes occurred.  In order to figure out some of the dates for events, I had to do some math and count the number of summers that had passed since so much of her novel based on seasons or calculate the year based off ages and birth dates. I also researched many of the events she mentions so this timeline goes beyond the information presented to us in the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

One of my focuses is on her education at both Radcliffe and Hopkins as to show how well educated she was – Alice Toklas obviously was not the only one who would regard Stein as a genius. Her professors were also convinced that she had great potential and most wanted to pass her even though she didn’t put in much effort, and in one case, even refused to take an exam. I thought it was important to include this event, as she was one class away from earning her MD. Instead she happily refused the offer to finish the class and chose not to become a doctor (which seemed very boring to her). She certainly followed through on that and lived a fairly glamorous and exciting life as she used the money from her trust fund to buy art with her brother and her life took a thrilling twist. With Leo, she met numerous famous artists in Paris and developed great friendships with Matisse, Picasso, and the like. This is a key component of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas as it gives an insight  into her celebrity – like  life and the gossip surrounding such big-name artists. For this reason, her relationships with Matisse and Picasso are included. The most important relationship, however, is of course her relationship with Alice, so their first meeting and when they moved in together are included. The photos show the longevity and closeness of the their relationship.

1874 – Gertrude stein is born in West Allgenhy, Pennsylvannia (but grows up in Oakland, California)

Map of Allegheny, Pennsylvannia via Wikipedia commons, Public Domain
Map of Allegheny, Pennsylvania via Wikipedia commons, Public Domain.

1877 – Alice B. Toklas is born in San Francisco.

1893-1897– Stein attends Radcliffe College (attached to Harvard University) to study psychology under William James.

Photograph of Gertrude Stein taken at Radcliffe with Harvard Students, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Gertrude Stein at Radcliffe with Harvard Students. Photographer unknown. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1900-1903 – Stein’s last two years at Hopkins – where she loses interest in medicine, flunks, and is actually grateful because she doesn’t want to study medicine anymore.

Gertrude Stein at Johns Hopkins, c. 1892, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.

Gertrude Stein at Johns Hopkins, c. 1892, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Gertrude Stein at Johns Hopkins, c. 1892. Photographer unknown. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1902 – Leo Stein (her brother) moves to London and she comes with him

1903 – Stein moves to Paris and lives at rue de Fleurus. Here, almost immediately, she begins to write her first short novel (which she forgets about for several years).

Rue de Fleurus, c. 1912, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Rue de Fleurus, c. 1912, Photograph by Man Ray. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1904 – Gertrude and Leo decide to start an art collection using their trust fund. They buy paintings by Matisse and Picasso.

-Winter: Gertrude goes to Vollard’s and is introduced to Cezannes (and his nudes).

Portrait of Vollard by Picasso from Edward Greene Collection of Portrait Engravings from the Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Vollard. Edward Greene Collection of Portrait Engravings from the Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.

-Spring: Stien buys Cezannes’ portrait of a woman (which later influenced Stein to write Three Lives.

-Autumn: Stein attends the first Autumn Salon and soon Stein meets Matisse.

During this time, their apartment is turning into a salon, where people can come and visit their art collection and their social lives appear to include many famous artists.

Photograph of Alice B. Toklas and Picasso from the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, c. 1920-1934, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Alice B. Toklas and Picasso. c. 1920-1934.  Photographer unknown. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, c. 1920-1934, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Letter to Gertrude Stein and Leo Stein from Pablo Picasso, c. 1910,
Letter to Gertrude Stein and Leo Stein from Pablo Picasso, c. 1910. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1905 – Picasso begins his portrait of Stein (calculated if he began the portrait at age 24, given Picasso’s birth at 1881). She has over 90 sittings with him in order to complete this portrait.  They become very close friends during this time.

Photograph of the Portrait of Gertrude Stein at the MOMA's installation, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Portrait of Gertrude Stein at the MOMA’s installation. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

-During this time, Stein also writes Three Lives (which is not published until two years later).

Letter to Gertrude Stein from Pablo Picasso, c. 1906, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Letter to Gertrude Stein from Pablo Picasso, c. 1906, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Letter to Gertrude Stein from Pablo Picasso, c. 1906, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Letter to Gertrude Stein from Pablo Picasso, c. 1906. Photographer unknown. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1907 – September 8th – Alice B. Toklas arrives and meets Gertrude.

1910 – Alice B. Toklas moves into Gertrude’s apartment in rue de Fleurus, marking the beginning of their relationship.

Photograph of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas on a Patio in Berchtesgaden, c. 1940 from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Photo illustrates their long relationship
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas on a patio in Berchtesgaden, c. 1940-46. Photographer unknown. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Photo illustrates their long relationship.

1911 – Stein meets Mabel Dodge who promotes Gertrude in the United States.

Later, Stein writes The Potrait of Mabel Dodge and privately publishes copies.

-Summer: Meets with John Lane about Three Lives and The Making of Americans.

Photo of Mabel Dodge Luhan, April 12 1934, Gertrude Stein at Johns Hopkins, c. 1892, from Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Mabel Dodge Luhan, April 12 1934, Gertrude Stein at Johns Hopkins, c. 1892. Photographer unknown. Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Letter to Mabel Dodge Luhan, c. 1929-1930, from Gertrude Stein, from Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Letter to Mabel Dodge Luhan, c. 1929-1930, Gertrude Stein. From Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1913 – Stein plans and helps to publicize Armory Show (the first avant-garde art show in America), but divides her collection with Leo.

Autograph Postcard signed 1913 January 26th, to Mademoiselle and Monsieur Stien, London, c. 1913, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Autographed Postcard signed 1913 January 26th, to Mademoiselle and Monsieur Stien, London, c. 1913. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

1914 – The Great War begins.

-Kahnweiler’s gallery is auctioned off by the French Government and “the old gang” meets up. His collection basically contains all cubist pictures from the past 3 years before the war.

-Stein and Toklas spend 3 months in England during the war.

1916 – Alice and Gertrude volunteer by driving supplies to French hospitals.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas with their Ford truck used to deliver supplies, "Auntie" Photograph, c. 1918 Courtesy Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers Yale Collection of American Literature Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven via Yale University Library
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas with their Ford truck used to deliver supplies, “Auntie”
Photographer unkown, c. 1918
Courtesy Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers
Yale Collection of American Literature
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven via National Portrait Gallery

1925 – Stein finally publishes The Making of Americans even though she worked on it years ago.

Photograph of Gertrude Stein in her salon, writing, c. 1920, Creator: Man Ray, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Gertrude Stein in her salon, writing, c. 1920, Photograph by Man Ray, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.

1926 – Stein gives a lecture at Cambridge and Oxford.

Stein's tour route, October 1934–May 1935 Lohnes & Wright Courtesy University of California Press, Berkeley via National Portrait Gallery
Stein’s tour route, October 1934–May 1935
Lohnes & Wright
Courtesy University of California Press, Berkeley via National Portrait Gallery

1933 – Publishes “The Autobiography of Alice B. Tolkas.”

Manuscript Notebook: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
Manuscript Notebook: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Photography by Man Ray. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature in Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection.
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One thought on “A Timeline of Gertrude Stein: a biography of major points in her life, as told through the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

  1. I recently acquired a photograph that I believe may be of Gertrude Stein. I estimate it to be from the early 1910’s. It was framed at Biggs Art store in Hot Springs Arkansas. Have you come across any record of Stein visiting Hot Springs to promote her work? I would love you to see it and give your opinion on if you think it is her. Thank you.

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