Mabel Dodge Luhan: draft 2

Bio draft 2:

Mabel Dodge Luhan was born in Buffalo, New York in 1879 to Victorian, emotionally reserved, and socially elite parents. Dodge made her début in Buffalo society and, after attending an Episcopal girls school in Buffalo, another girls school in New York City, and a finishing school in Washington, D.C., married Karl Evans at age 21. Their marriage gave Dodge her only child, John Evans. Widowed at 23, Dodge was sent to Paris to recover. On the ship, she met Edwin Dodge, an American architect; Mabel and Edwin married in Paris in 1905 before moving to Arcetri, just outside of Florence. The Dodges bought and curated Villa Curonia, a Medician villa fit for the queen Dodge emulated.

Villa Curonia was the Dodges’ home and the site of a salon of Anglo-American writers from 1905 to 1912. Edwin made slight architectural additions to the villa to make it look grander; Mabel filled it with art, artists, and gossip. She became the centerpiece of Anglo-American society in Florence, acting as a liaison between the artists she hosted, among them Gertrude Stein, her brother Leo and partner Alice Toklas, André Gide, and Mina Loy. Mina Loy and Stephen Haweis confided in Dodge about their troubled marriage and their extramarital affairs. Neither Loy nor Haweis knew the other was confessing to Dodge, and Dodge kept her communication with both sides a secret. As Florentine life wore on Dodge, she had a string of affairs and attempted suicide twice. In 1912, the Dodges moved to New York City. Later that year, Mabel divorced Edwin.

Dodge began a new salon at 23 Fifth Avenue, in Greenwich Village. Dodge exchanged letters with Stein and Loy, who still lived in Europe. In 1914, Loy sent a manuscript of her “Feminist Manifesto” to Dodge; though the manifesto is certain and violent, to Dodge she wrote timidly; she added in the margins of the first page that this was only a “first draught,” and that “of course it’s easily fallacious.”[1] Dodge never wrote Loy back with comments, but secretly admired Loy’s work, writing to Stein in 1914 that she admired Loy’s newly published “Aphorisms on Futurism.” Dodge’s silence in response to Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” illustrates her complicated relationship with feminism. Though Margaret Sanger attended Dodge’s salon in New York, and Dodge shared Sanger’s belief in a freer female sexuality, Dodge had trouble distinguishing her own significance from that of the man she was married to at the time.

In New York, Dodge began to form an image of herself distinct from the images of those who attended her salon. In 1913, she helped organize the Patterson Strike Pageant. The same day that Dodge proposed the idea for the Pageant, she met John Reed, and the two quickly began a relationship. Dodge also promoted the Armory Show in 1913, where Stein’s poem, “Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia,” first appeared. After the Armory Show, at the same time that Gertrude Stein finally got recognition in America, everyone in New York wanted to know who Mabel Dodge was. People looked at her, not just at her guests.

In 1915, Dodge and Reed engaged; when Reed went to cover the First World War, Dodge met and began an affair with Maurice Sterne. Dodge lived with Sterne in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, while Reed was away. When Reed returned, Dodge offered him a writing studio and a room in Sterne’s and her home. The three lived together until Reed moved out after only a few days, ending his and Dodge’s relationship. Dodge married Sterne in August of 1917. At the beginning of her third marriage, Dodge adjusted her feminism: “For the mature woman, there is no father,” she wrote. “There is no master. There is only herself, free and alone.”[2]

Dodge and Sterne spent most of their marriage apart, traveling between New York and Croton at different times. When Dodge caught Sterne looking at other women briefly after their honeymoon, she sent him to New Mexico. In November of 1917, Sterne called Dodge to meet him there: “Dearest girl—” he wrote to her, “Do you want an object in life? Save the Indians, their art—their culture—reveal it to the world!”[3] When they divorced in 1922, Sterne went back to the east coast, leaving Dodge in Taos, New Mexico. In 1923, she married Antonio Luhan, a Tiwa who courted Dodge toward the end of her marriage to Sterne (though she claims in her memoirs that her romantic relationship with Luhan did not begin until after her divorce from Sterne).

In 1922, Dodge began a new salon, the Taos art colony, of which D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Willa Cather, and Ansel Adams were members. Dodge was not only a centerpiece but also a member of the Taos art colony. In the 1930s and 40s she wrote three books—Lorenzo in Taos about D.H. Lawrence, Winter in Taos, and Taos and its Artists—each of which attempted to document southwestern culture the way Sterne suggested in 1917. At the same time Dodge wrote a four-volume memoir, finally turning her life into one large piece of art. She stayed in Taos, married to Tony Luhan, until she died of a heart attack in 1962.


Works Cited

Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996. Print.

Loy, Mina, and Mabel Dodge Luhan. “Feminist Manifesto.” 15 Nov. 1914. Letter. Web.

Luhan, Mabel Dodge, Gertrude Stein, and Patricia R. Everett. A History of Having Many Times Not Continued to Be Friends: The Correspondence Between Mabel Dodge and Gertrude Stein, 1911-1934. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996. Web.

Rudnick, Lois Palken. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984. Print.

—. “The Male-Identified Woman and Other Anxieties: The Life of Mabel Dodge Luhan.” The Challenge of Feminist Biography. Ed. Sara Alpern. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992. 116–138. Print.

[1] Loy and Dodge Luhan, “Feminist Manifesto.”

[2] Qtd. Mabel Dodge Luhan 141.

[3] Qtd. Mabel Dodge Luhan 142.

Bio template/metadata:

Name: Mabel Dodge Luhan (née Ganson; Mabel Dodge in Florence, when Mina Loy met her)

Date of Birth: February 26, 1879

Place of Birth: Buffalo, NY

Date of Death: August 13, 1962

Place of Death: Taos, NM

Country of origin, citizenship: America/American

Gender: Female

Race: White

Kind of artist/cultural worker: Salon hostess and memoirist

Addresses in Florence and New York: Villa Curonia, Arcetri, Italy; 23 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

Dates and places of overlap with Loy: Florence, 1910-1912 at Villa Curonia; New York, 1916-1917 at 23 Fifth Avenue; letter correspondence

Avant-garde movements Dodge was associated with: Futurism via Loy, involved with the Armory Show in 1913

Brief summary of the figure’s biographical/historical significance:

Mabel Dodge, with her husband Edwin, hosted a salon at Villa Curonia in Arcetri, just outside of Florence. While the Dodges never rose to social prominence among the Florentines, Mabel placed herself at the center of Anglo-American society in Florence from 1905-1912. At her salon, Mabel talked to writers about their art and about their personal lives—Mina Loy sent her the manuscript of “Feminist Manifesto” in 1914, Mabel and Mina also discussed Mina’s marriage to Stephen Haweis. Mabel also talked to Haweis himself about his and Mina’s marriage; she sided with no one in particular, keeping all parties close. Mabel therefore occupied the center of the worlds of art and gossip in Anglo-American Florentine society. Mabel was a muse to the artists she hosted, often inspiring and appearing in their work. She also published a four-volume memoir in the 1930s, which explicate her life as well as her experience of Native American culture, while living in New Mexico.

Brief summary of the figure’s relationship to Loy:

Mabel was both an artistic and personal confidante to Mina Loy. The two met at Villa Curonia in Florence, and Mina became a regular attendee of Mabel’s salon. Mina tentatively sent her manuscript of “Feminist Manifesto” to Mabel, with notes at the top calling the writing a “rough draught” and backing down from the manifesto’s strong claims: “of course it’s easily fallacious.” Mabel was an artistic muse to whom Mina felt close: the two also discussed Mina’s troubled marriage to Stephen Haweis as well as her affairs with Marinetti and Papini. And Mabel was not excluded from Mina’s group of friends from whom she often solicited money.

What was the nature of their overlap or connection? Was it social, literary, artistic? Were they involved in collaborative ventures (publications, exhibitions, performances, readings)?:

Though Mabel and Mina met at Mabel’s salon while the two both lived in Florence, their overlap was mainly through letter correspondence. Their connection was social as well as literary—Mina sent her manuscript of “Feminist Manifesto” to Mabel before it was published, looking for advice and comments. Their relationship was also intellectual; Mabel was a friend of Margaret Sanger, and introduced Sanger’s ideas to Mina. These ideas may have informed Mina’s feminism. Mabel and Mina’s connection was not collaborative; they never published or exhibited any art together. Their overlap was mainly social, with interspersions of artistic discussion along the way.

What other artists or writers did the figure come into contact with?: D.H. Lawrence, Leo Stein, Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas, Carl Van Vechten, John Reed, Margaret Sanger, H.G. Wells, Isadora Duncan, Gordon Craig, Max Eastman, Maurice Sterne

Pledged: EPE

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