Stein, the youngest of a family of five children Her father was a wealthy businessman with real estate holdings. German and English were spoken in their home. Gertrude's siblings were: Michael (1865), Simon (1868), Bertha (1870), and Leo (1872).
Stein attended Radcliffe College, then an annex of Harvard University, from 1893 to 1897 and was a student of psychologist William James. With James's supervision, Stein and another student, Leon Mendez Solomons, performed experiments on normal motor automatism, a phenomenon hypothesized to occur in people when their attention is divided between two simultaneous intelligent activities such as writing and speaking.
These experiments yielded examples of writing that appeared to represent "stream of consciousness", a psychological theory often attributed to James and the style of modernist authors Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. In 1934, behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner interpreted Stein's difficult poem Tender Buttons as an example of normal motor automatism. In a letter Stein wrote during the 1930s, she explained that she never accepted the theory of automatic writing: "[T]here can be automatic movements, but not automatic writing. Writing for the normal person is too complicated an activity to be indulged in automatically." She did publish an article in a psychological journal on "spontaneous automatic writing" while at Radcliffe, but "the unconscious and the intuition (even when James himself wrote about them) never concerned her".
At Radcliffe, she began a lifelong friendship with Mabel Foote Weeks, whose correspondence traces much of the progression of Stein's life. In 1897, Stein spent the summer in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, studying embryology at the Marine Biological Laboratory. She received her A.B. (Bachelor of Arts) magna cum laude from Radcliffe in 1898.
Books by Gertrude Stein
Three Lives is a work of fiction written in 1905 and 1906 by American writer Gertrude Stein. The book is separated into three stories, "The Good Anna," "Melanctha," and "The Gentle Lena." The three stories are independent of each other, but all are...
Tender Buttons is a 1914 book by American writer Gertrude Stein consisting of three sections titled "Objects", "Food", and "Rooms". While the short book consists of multiple poems covering the everyday mundane, Stein's experimental use of language re...