Gertrude Stein

Three Lives (1909)


Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

1874   Born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania to well-educated German Jewish immigrants.

1877   The Steins moved to Vienna then Paris for business reasons.

1878   The Steins return to Oakland, California.

1897   Graduated from Radcliffe College and joined John Hopkins Medical School.

1901   Left John Hopkins without attaining a degree.

1902   Moved to France.

1903-1912     Lived in Paris with her brother Leo.

1907   Met her lifelong partner Alice B. Toklas who moved in with Gertrude and Leo in 1909

Lived off her father’s money most of her life.

With her brother, Gertrude compiled one of the first collections of Cubist art.

In the 1920s her salon, decorated with avant-garde paintings, attracted many writers and artists (Hemingway, Pound, Matisse, Anderson)

She coined the term “The Lost Generation” to refer to these American expatriates in Europe between WWI and the Great Depression (1918-1929) (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Anderson, Eliot)

1947   Died of stomach cancer at the age of 72


Three Lives (1909)

Three novellas that study simple lower class women at the turn of the century. Nothing out of the ordinary happens to the three women and Stein focuses on the realistic portrayal of common life. The three women die young at the end.

     The Good Anna: Anna is a servant of Miss Mathilda. She lives a helpful and generous life but is not missed when she is gone.

     Melanctha: Melanctha Herbert is an educated negress. She becomes friends with Jane Harden who teaches her the rougher lessons in life. Has an intimate but uncertain affair with a black doctor, Jeff Campbell but they eventually separate.

     The Gentle Lena. Lena is a German girl brought by her aunt to work as a servant. She is then married to Herman Kreder, an arranged marriage by her aunt. When Lena dies, she isn’t missed.



Influenced in her writing by the fragmented nature of the Cubist movement in art.

Influenced by Cezanne’s insistence in his artwork to relate part to whole, insisting that the viewer/reader must form a sense of wholeness from these fragmented parts.

Style is repetitive, using simple diction and limited vocabulary.

“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” Most famous quote for Stein, reflects her belief that using the name itself is enough to evoke imagery and emotions associated with it.