I first came across the fascinating Natalie Barney (1876-1972) in an issue of The Paris Review which published a tribute shortly after she died, "A Natalie Barney Garland." The picture above is c. 1892.
Below, a picture when Natalie was younger. Her family was quite well-to-do.
Natalie was an American woman born way ahead of her time. She knew she was lesbian at an early age, which must have been unbearable in that patriarchal era when women had few rights. Barney was a writer and poet, and moved to Paris long before Hemingway to live openly as a lesbian with no apologies to anyone. She had a salon of writers and artists (including men), promoted and supported their work, and by all accounts led a fabulous and charmed life, which included art, literature and numerous affairs. Monogamy was not on the agenda.
Below, some marvelous details from the Wikipedia entry on Barney (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here):
In the 1900s Barney held early gatherings of the salon at her house in Neuilly. The entertainment included poetry readings and theatricals (in which Colette sometimes performed). Mata Hari performed a dance once, riding into the garden as Lady Godiva on a white horse harnessed with turquoise cloisonné.
The play Equivoque may have led Barney to leave Neuilly in 1909. According to a contemporary newspaper article, her landlord objected to her holding an outdoor performance of a play about Sappho, which he felt "followed nature too closely." She canceled her lease and rented the pavillon at 20, Rue Jacob in Paris' Latin Quarter and her salon was held there until the late 1960s.
The courtesan Liane de Pougy, one of Barney's amours.
Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks, her longtime companion.
Natalie Barney was born in Dayton, Ohio, the site of this year's Paper Doll convention. I may have to journey to the marker placed in her honor. And wouldn't she make a grand paper doll?
I leave you with The Myra, the "it" hat of Fall/Winter 1885-6.
My dear, you just never know what a woman is keeping under her hat.
Click the logo below for some more millinery musings.