Why Do Something If It Can Be Done: Quoting Gertrude Stein # 46

The Story of the Safety Pin. Gertrude was the guest of honor at the Diane Middlebrook Salon in San Francisco, this past Sunday, May 23rd, and what a ball she had! Another heroine pioneer of her time, Amelia Earhardt, shared the spotlight — together with her biographer, Susan Wels. The two revolutionaries were impressed by the elegance of this gathering, hosted by She Writer Marilyn Yalom.”Books and food, food and books — both excellent things,” Gertrude cheerfully quoted herself as she beheld the luscious chocolate cake, the big bowl of cherries, Sancerre wine and many other delicacies served to enliven the conversation.
Wouldn’t you know that in the charmed circle of writers and intellectuals, there was another aviator — a young book fanatic and philantropist named Kim Anstatt Morton — as well as a personal family connection to Gertrude Stein? Writer Maria Espinosa offered the following hilarious story:
“My grandmother, Ruth Friedman, went to Radcliffe while her brother Leo was a student at Harvard. While there, Leo and Ruth were good friends with Gertrude and Leo Stein. They were connected both by family connections (I believe their parents knew each other), by their assimilated German Jewish roots.
My grandmother, a lady with a commanding presence, knew that she could only spend a year at Radcliffe because her mother was ill. She wished to share housing that year with her brother Leo to whom she was close. The Radcliffe Dean said no, this was not proper, at which my grandmother simply stated that this was non-negotiable …and got her way.
So they spent a merry year all four evidently socializing quite a bit.
Several years later the Friedman and Stein families embarked on the same steamer for Europe. I think it was on-board (or maybe earlier at Radcliffe–Harvard) that, according to family stories, Gertrude developed a crush on Leo Friedman.
But Leo scorned Gertrude because she had terrible table manners…spilled egg on her skirt, and fastened the skirt with a safety pin.”
Alas, all we know from the Gertie of her student years, confirms the story of the safety pin.
The story continues with the two Leos and their sisters arriving in Paris, where Gertrude invited Ruth to live with her. But Ruth’s mother “did not think that was a good idea and nixed it.” Could Ruth Friedman have been the Alice B. Toklas in Gertrude’s life? An interesting question and fodder for the Stein sleuths everywhere…
Stay tuned.

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