Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#wmnhist Women's History Month: Natalie Clifford Barney

 In honor of Women's History Month, I will be doing special posts in honor of women throughout history. One of which will be: every Wednesday in the month of March I will profile an extraordinary woman who you may not have heard of. Today's profile is on:

Natalie Clifford Barney

Name: Natalie Clifford Barney
DOB/DOD: October 31, 1876 - February 2, 1972
Nationality: American
Occupation: Poet, Playwright and Novelist
What she was known for: Her infamous salon in Paris, being openly lesbian and supporting feminism.


Being the last Wednesday of March, this is my last profile of this sort. Of course, that does not mean that I will stop making posts about historical people, especially the ones who inspire me. I hope you enjoyed my profiles of these five incredible women throughout Women's History Month. You can read my posts about the other four here.


I just recently started reading up on this lady and I must say, she is very interesting. I've acquired a biography about her that I hope to starting reading soon.

Natalie Clifford Barney was born to a wealthy family in Dayton, Ohio. Her father was the son of a wealthy manufacture of railway cars.

The rigid structure of upper class bored her. She refused to marry, knowing since the age of 12 that she had no interest in men. Clifford wanted to live openly mostly because she did not want to hide and also to keep away fortune hunting men.

Being fiercely independent, she moved to Paris when she was 24 to live her life the way she wanted. She would openly court women, some of her most famous lovers were courtesan Liane de Pougy, Renée Vivien, Elisabeth de Gramont and Romaine Brooks, among others. She also hosted a salon, which she did continuously for 60 years. She mostly focused on the work of women, but also included well known male writers. In her salon, she hosted discussions of art, literature, music, among other things. Some of the most famous writers, artists and actors of the time frequented her salon.

Clifford published her first work in 1900, called Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes (Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women). She became the first woman since Sapho to publish work about the love of women. She published her second work Cinq Petits Dialogues Grecs (Five Short Greek Dialogues) under the pseudonym Tryphé, to escape her father's influence, since he had bought and destroyed the remaining copies of her first work when he had found out about it. However, he died in 1902 and she never published under the pseudonym again.

Clifford continued her salon for the next six decades which included poetry readings and theatricals. And in 1927 she started an Académie des Femmes, an academy for women, for women writers. This went against the French Academy, whose 40 members were all men. It was not a formal group, it was mainly a series of readings that were a part of her Friday salon.

After her death in 1972, Clifford continued to be an inspiration to writers, as she was when she was alive. This includes both fiction and non fiction. Her own work was not available to English-speaking readers until 1995.

There is a marker in Dayton, Ohio, which was placed in 2009. It is the first marker in Ohio to state the honoree's sexual orientation.


Lisa said...

It's amazing how brave she was and how much more open the French were than the Americans and British.