It’s the birthday of the woman who is most famous for being Gertrude Stein’s lover: that’s Alice B. Toklas (books by this author), born in San Francisco (1877). She studied music at the University of Washington for a time, and was a gifted pianist. But when her mother died in 1897, she left college and her career aspirations behind, and returned home to care for her father and brothers.
She and Stein met in Paris in 1907, and Stein hired Toklas as a secretary. Toklas typed Stein’s manuscripts, and they fell in love. They officially moved in together in 1910, and were together until Stein’s death in 1946. Stein left most of her estate, including their valuable shared art collection, to Toklas, but since their relationship was not legally recognized, Stein’s relatives disputed her right to have — and sell — the art. The paintings ended up locked in a Paris bank vault at the insistence of the Steins. In need of an income, Toklas began writing, and published three books — one of which was The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933). That was Gertrude Stein’s autobiography, which Stein wrote using Toklas as narrator. In the book, Stein writes as Alice: “I am a pretty good housekeeper and a pretty good gardener and a pretty good needlewoman and a pretty good secretary and a pretty good vet for dogs and I have to do them all at once and I found it difficult to add being a pretty good author.” Toklas did eventually publish her own memoir, What is Remembered (1963). She spent her later years in financial difficulties and poor health.