Gertrude Stein: Two Young Ladies Who Were Gay Together


gertrude stein miss furr miss skeene

Miss Furr and Miss Skeene from Gertrude Stein’s Geography and Plays (1922) sees the author gleefully playing with the then codeword ‘gay’ in a subtle hymn of praise to a lesbian love affair.

Scroll down for a PDF of Miss Furr and Miss Skeene.

Miss Furr and Miss Skeene is now, unlike its celebrated author, much forgotten. Gertrude Stein gifted the language such memorable phrases as “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” and “There is no there there.” And of course, there’s The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, her quasi-memoir, written in the voice of life partner, Alice B Toklas.

But, although just over 2000 words, Miss Furr and Miss Skeene is, by design, a challenging read.

Gertrude Stein wants the context of her story to sneak up on her reader. She repeats certain words over and over, most notably ‘gay’. At first, the word is innocuous, sliding almost unnoticed into a description of Helen Furr’s homelife with her ‘quite pleasant’ husband.

“She did not find it gay living in the same place where she had always been living.”

Gay comes out

But the insistent repetition of the word begins to hint at something more. Finally, gay comes out as Helen Furr and Georgine Skeene set up home together.

“They were regularly gay. They were gay every day. They ended every day in the same way, at the same time, and they had been every day regularly gay.”

Vanity Fair reprinted Miss Furr and Miss Skeene in 1923. The editor said of the piece, “It will be seen that the style, though queer, is exactly suited to the subject.”

Queer indeed! They obviously got it.

But the editor of the Haldeman-Julius Weekly remained blissfully ignorant.

“It is a mere jumble of jejune words, a quite daring masquerade of nonsense in the guise of art.”

Straight people, hey? Gotta love ’em.

Gertrude Stein based her story on the lives of two friends, artists Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars, like her and Alice B, life partners.

Give the story a try — watch as Gertrude Stein wryly weaves her humourous web, ensnaring unsuspecting readers oblivious to the secret she hides in plain sight.

Read Here: Miss Furr and Miss Skeene PDF.

Check out these other lesbian authors: Michael Field, Nobuko Yoshiya, Radclyffe Hall, Renée Vivien.

Or find more HERE: Famous lesbians: extraordinary women from lesbian history.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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