Mabel Dodge (Luhan)
Mabel Dodge hosted modernist salons in Florence, New York City, and Taos, New Mexico, presiding over her guests as an intellectual provocateur, before turning to memoir at the end of her career. Dodge was born in 1879 in Buffalo, New York to Victorian, socially elite parents. After making her début, she married Karl Evans at age 21, and had her only child, John. Widowed at 23, Dodge was sent to Paris to recover. On-board the ship, she met architect Edwin Dodge. In 1905, Mabel and Edwin married and bought Villa Curonia, a former Medician villa.
Edwin enhanced the villa with architectural additions; Mabel filled it with art, artists, and gossip. Carl Van Vechten, Gertrude Stein, her brother Leo and partner Alice Toklas, and Mina Loy frequented Villa Curonia, where Dodge served as both hostess and confidante. Loy and her husband, Stephen Haweis, confessed their extramarital affairs to Dodge, who kept all conversations confidential (Burke 120). As social entanglements took a toll on Dodge, she had a string of affairs and attempted suicide twice. In 1912, the Dodges moved to New York City and divorced.
Dodge established a new salon at 23 Fifth Avenue, in Greenwich Village, but kept contact with Loy. In 1914, Loy sent a manuscript of “Feminist Manifesto” to Dodge, tempering energy of her writing by adding “of course it’s easily fallacious” in the margin (Loy and Dodge Luhan). Dodge never responded to “Feminist Manifesto,” and her silence indicates her complicated feminism. Although Margaret Sanger attended Dodge’s New York salon, and Dodge shared Sanger’s belief in a freer female sexuality, she tended to conflate her own significance with that of the man she was married to at the time. (“The Male-Indentified Woman” 125).
In 1913, Dodge promoted the Armory Show, where Stein’s “Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia” was showcased. Dodge also proposed the idea for and helped organize the Patterson Strike Pageant in 1913, where she met journalist John Reed. Dodge and Reed became engaged in 1915, but when Reed traveled to cover World War I, Dodge had an affair with sculptor and painter Maurice Sterne. Upon Reed’s return, Dodge offered him a bedroom and writing studio in Sterne’s home—an effectual end to their engagement (Mabel Dodge Luhan 105). She married Sterne in 1917.
Briefly after their honeymoon, Dodge accused Sterne of looking at other women and sent him to New Mexico. Sterne soon asked Dodge to meet him in Taos, New Mexico to “Save the Indians, their art—their culture—reveal it to the world!” (qtd. Mabel Dodge Luhan 142). Dodge moved to Taos but divorced Sterne in 1922 and married Antonio (Tony) Luhan, a Pueblo native to Taos, in 1923.
Dodge’s last salon, the Taos art colony, included D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Willa Cather and Ansel Adams. As an artistic member of this salon, Dodge wrote three works of prose documenting her life in Taos: Lorenzo in Taos (1932) about Lawrence, Winter in Taos (1935), and Taos and its Artists (1947). In the 40s, Dodge wrote a four-volume memoir, finally turning her life into her own art. She stayed in Taos, married to Tony Luhan, until she died of a heart attack in 1962.
Name: Mabel Dodge Luhan (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
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; Taos art colony
Brief summary of the figure’s biographical/historical significance: Dodge hosted artistic salons in Arcetri, Italy (outside of Florence), New York City, and Taos, New Mexico. Dodge moved to New York in 1912 and in 1913 promoted the Armory Show as well as proposed the idea for and helped organize the Patterson Strike Pageant. She and her husband at the time, Maurice Sterne, moved to Taos, New Mexico in 1917, where Dodge founded the Taos art colony in 1922. While hosting her last salon, Dodge turned to memoir, attempting to document southwestern life and shape her life into her own art.
Brief summary of the figure’s relationship to Loy: Dodge was both an artistic and personal confidante to Mina Loy. The two met at Villa Curonia in Florence, and Loy became a regular attendee of Dodge’s salon. Loy tentatively sent a manuscript of “Feminist Manifesto” to Dodge, 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.” Dodge was an artistic muse to whom Loy felt close: the two also discussed Loy’s troubled marriage to Stephen Haweis as well as her affairs with Marinetti and Papini (Burke 120). Loy often asked Dodge for money when she was in financial trouble. Dodge also introduced Loy to influential figures such as Gertrude Stein and Margaret Sanger.
What was the nature of their overlap or connection? Was it social, literary, artistic? Were they involved in collaborative ventures (publications, exhibitions, performances, readings)?: Dodge and Loy’s connection was social as well as literary. Loy was a frequent guest of Dodge’s salon in Italy, but when Dodge moved to New York, she and Loy often exchanged letters. Through this mail correspondence, Loy and Dodge mainly communicated as friends, but Loy sent Dodge an early manuscript of her “Feminist Manifesto.” While their overlap was mainly social, they occasionally discussed Loy’s writing.
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, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Barolini, Helen. “Mabel Dodge Luhan: In Search of a Personal South.” Their Other Side: Six American Women and the Lure of Italy, Fordham University Press, 2006, pp. 129-75, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/lib/davidson/reader.action?docID=3239427&ppg=3.
Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996.
Loy, Mina, and Mabel Dodge Luhan. Feminist Manifesto. 15 Nov. 1914, http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Record/3483102. Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library.
Luhan, Mabel Dodge, and Gertrude Stein. A History of Having Many Times Not Continued to Be Friends : The Correspondence Between Mabel Dodge and Gertrude Stein, 1911-1934, edited by Patricia R. Everett, University of New Mexico Press, 1996, http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook/bmxlYmtfXzIyNTE4X19BTg2?sid=e68b9ff4-e6c1-44fb-9a63-ff3f65f2ac16@sessionmgr4007&vid=0&format=EB&lpid=lp_COVER-2&rid=0.
Rudnick, Lois Palken. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds. University of New Mexico Press, 1984.
Rudnick, Lois Palken. “The Male-Identified Woman and Other Anxieties: The Life of Mabel Dodge Luhan.” The Challenge of Feminist Biography, edited by Sara Alpern, University of Illinois Press, 1992, pp. 116–38.
“Sex, Gender, Marriage, and the New Woman.” Mabel Dodge 1905-1918: More Than a Muse. N.p., n.d., http://omeka.ursinus.edu/exhibits/show/mabel-dodge-morethanamuse.
Honor Pledge: EEP