For Women’s History Month we’re dedicating our March posts to women and their stories.
Gertrude and Alice: Gay Icons
Over the years I’ve written a few biographies. My first subject was handed to me on a silver platter, so to speak. An editor I was working with asked me if I’d consider writing about Amelia Earhart’s mysterious disappearance. I agreed to give it a go. Without the new evidence now available, I wasn’t able to solve the mystery of the intrepid aviatrix. However, I did conclude that I admired her courage and jaunty sportiness. Since then, every woman I’ve written about — that list includes Harriet Tubman, Margaret E. Knight, Emily Carr, Lillian Gilbreth and Mother Jones— has impressed me with her courage, artistry, inventiveness, industry, intelligence and feistiness.
So, what do I admire about Gertrude Stein and her life partner Alice B. Toklas? I most certainly admire their devotion to one another, their intellectual rigor, their joyful approach to living. They created a salon at their home at 27 rue de Fleurus where many an aspiring artist dropped by to talk shop, eat brownies and basically bask in the glow of Stein’s genius. And oddly, that self-proclaimed genius still inspires. It’s tough to put one’s finger on why this is so, given that most of Stein’s writing is indecipherable and borders on the ridiculous. Then again, how can you not admire a person who exudes such self-assurance; who, in fact, made undaunted self-confidence her métier? And that is one of the things I hope kids will take away from Happy Birthday, Alice Babette. Trust yourself. Dare to fail. Dream big.
Monica Kulling is the author of over forty books for children, including the popular Great Idea series, stories of inventors. The third book in the series, In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps It Up, was nominated for the 2012 Governor General’s Award for illustration and chosen as the 2012 Simon Wiesenthal Honor Book. In addition, Monica’s work has been nominated for numerous Silver Birch Express and Golden Oak awards. Her recent picture books include Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity and The Tweedles Go Electric. Monica Kulling lives in Toronto.