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Sapphic Trailblazer: Natalie Clifford Barney

Sapphic Trailblazers
Natalie Clifford Barney: A Sapphic Trailblazer’s Journey Through the Literary Salons of Paris

Welcome to our latest blog post, where we celebrate the life and career of sapphic trailblazer Natalie Clifford Barney.

Join us as we explore her early life, cultural influences, and extraordinary career achievements. Discover her impact as a role model for the LGBTQ community, and uncover three lesser-known facts about this fascinating literary figure.

Let’s dive in!

A Life of Privilege and Rebellion: Natalie Clifford Barney’s Early Life and Cultural Influences

Born on October 31, 1876, in Dayton, Ohio, Natalie Clifford Barney was raised in a wealthy and influential family. Her father, Albert Clifford Barney, was a son of a successful manufacturer of railway cars. Her mother, Alice Pike Barney, was a prominent painter and socialite. This privileged upbringing exposed Natalie to the world of arts and culture from an early age.

At the age of 5, Oscar Wilde rescued Barney when she was running past Wilde, escaping a group of small boys. Wilde scooped her up and held her out of the boys’ reach. After that, Wilde told her a story. The following day, Wilde met Barney’s mother, encouraging her to pursue art seriously, which her husband objected to.

Barney says she knew she was a lesbian when she was 12 and didn’t want to hide who she was.

Despite her family’s conservative values, Natalie developed a fiercely independent spirit and a desire to challenge societal norms. As a young woman, she moved to Paris, which would become her home for the rest of her life. It was here that she fully embraced her identity as a lesbian and began to make her mark on the literary scene.

The Literary Salon Hostess: Career Achievements and LGBTQ Advocacy

Natalie Clifford Barney is best known for her legendary literary salon, which she hosted at her home in Paris for over 60 years. This salon attracted some of the most influential writers, artists, and intellectuals of the time, including Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Colette. Natalie herself was a talented writer, publishing several volumes of poetry, plays, and memoirs throughout her life.

As an openly lesbian woman during a time when homosexuality was largely taboo, Natalie was a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community. Her salon provided a safe space for queer individuals to gather, discuss their experiences, and express themselves creatively. Natalie’s own relationships with women were well-documented, and she never shied away from celebrating her sexuality in her writing.

Three Lesser-Known Facts About Natalie Clifford Barney

  • Barney appears as a salon hostess in The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.
  • She wrote in both French and English, and one of her French novels written in the 1920s was published in 2013. The English translation is titled Women Lovers or The Third Women.
  • Marcel Proust went to Barney to discuss lesbian culture while researching his novel In Search of Lost Time, but he was too nervous to broach the subject.

A Lasting Legacy: The Importance of Natalie Clifford Barney’s Impact

Natalie Clifford Barney’s legacy extends far beyond her literary accomplishments. As a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community, she was instrumental in creating a space where queer individuals could gather, share their stories, and express themselves without fear of judgment or persecution. Her fearless advocacy for LGBTQ rights and representation has had a lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals.

Natalie Clifford Barney’s life and career serve as powerful examples of the importance of authenticity, resilience, and representation in the literary world. As we celebrate her achievements and continued influence, let us also remember the lasting impact she has had on the LGBTQ community and beyond.

Find out more about Natalie Clifford Barney in this Wikipedia article.

Join us each day in June for a new story of a sapphic trailblazer as IHS celebrates Pride month!

Sapphic Trailblazers: Tales of sapphics through the ages

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