Feminist writer, poet, playwright, and art collector, Gertrude Stein was born in Pennsylvania in 1874, the youngest of five children. Gertrude learned several languages before learning English as her family travelled to Europe in the first six years of her life.
With little formal education, Gertrude was admitted as a special student to the Harvard Annex in 1893 (later named Radcliffe College). She studied psychology under William James, and graduated magna cum laude in 1898. William James declared her his “most brilliant woman student” and encouraged her to study medicine at John Hopkins. She left after four years with no degree after having difficulty with her last year of courses.
In 1903, Gertrude moved to Paris to live with her brother, Leo Stein. They began to collect modern art and their Paris home became famous for the Saturday salons – a gathering of a large circle of artists including Picasso, Matisse and Gris, whom Leo and Gertrude helped bring to public attention. Picasso painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein in 1906.
In 1907 Gertrude met wealthy American, Alice B. Toklas, who became her secretary and lifelong partner. While Gertrude developed a new approach to writing, publishing several books, her home and salons were frequented by many emerging writers, artists and British and American expatriates. She also tutored Sherwood Anderson and Ernest Hemingway in their writing efforts.
Remaining in France during both world wars, Gertrude had planned to move back to the US after World War II, but died in 1946.