Gertrude Stein

Bachrach Studio (active 1868–present)
Gelatin silver print, 1903
Theresa Erhman Papers, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art
and Life, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Attending Radcliffe College, Harvard’s new sister school, in the 1890s, Stein changed her style of dress to express her independence from late-Victorian conventions. Taking cues from other “new girl” students, she abandoned the one-piece dresses she had worn since childhood and adopted long skirts and shirtwaists with leg-of-mutton sleeves, a style that reduced the distance between female and male clothing and made it difficult to distinguish the wealthy from the working class. Skirts and blouses announced a woman’s emancipation and a desire for an education equal to that of men. Clothes, Stein learned, are never neutral but serve as tools to create identity. This insight guided her choice of unconventional dress for the rest of her life. This photograph has the hallmarks of sensitive lighting and sharp detail associated with the Bachrach Studio in Baltimore, founded by David Bachrach, the husband of Stein’s maternal aunt Fanny.