Natalie Clifford Barney - Nominee

1876 - 1972

Born to extraordinary wealth in Dayton, Natalie abhorred the rigid conventions of high society, which dictated she do no more than develop the necessary charms to win a suitable husband.  Knowing she was a lesbian since age 12, she would have none of it. At 24 she settled in Paris and published lesbian love sonnets under a nom de plume. After her father’s death in 1902 she vowed never to conceal her identity again, saying “My queerness is not a vice, is not deliberate, and harms no one.” For over 60 years a weekly salon was held in Barney’s home on the Left Bank where such talents as Colette, Andre Gide, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Proust, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Djuna Barnes, and Gertrude Stein all visited. Nicknamed The Amazon – her many romantic partners included Renee Vivien, Dolly Wilde, and Romaine Brooks.  In 1910 she published Je Me Souviens and Actes et Entr’actes.  After Barnes’ last book of poetry was published in 1920, she mainly wrote epigrams (an exclusively masculine literary form up until that time) and her memoirs.  In 1920 she released Pensees d’une Amazone (Thoughts of an Amazon).  Her only novel – The One who is Legion (1930) – actually a novel within a novel – concerns a suicide victim brought back to life as a hermaphrodite who reads the book of her own life.  Barney was a true feminist, a pacifist, an out lesbian who opposed monogamy and lived with great passion. “If I had one ambition it was to make my life itself into a poem.” Barney died at age 95 in the same house at 20 rue Jacob in Paris where she had lived and ran her salon for decades.

Natalie Clifford Barney Headshot

Demography

Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White Jewish

Faith Construct Protestant

Nations Affiliated United States France

Era/Epoch First-wave Feminism (1848-1930) Jazz Age (1910-1940) Progressive Era (1890-1920) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929) World War I (1914-1918) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution

Author

Poet

Theater

Commemorations & Honors

Honored With a Place Setting in Judy Chicago's Feminist Work of Art The Dinner Party (1979)

Barney Honored With an Historical Marker in Her Hometown of Dayton, Ohio, This Was the First in Ohio to Note the Sexual Orientation of its Honoree (2009)

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell