Photo of John Cummins by Peg
Alice B. Toklas, left, with her companion Gertrude Stein and their dog Basket II, near Belley, France, ca. 1941. Photo courtesy of The Bancroft Library.

Alice B. Toklas: The Bancroft Library Interview

Interviews conducted by Roland Duncan in 1952, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2012.

Two years before the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) was established, James D. Hart, then director of The Bancroft Library, commissioned an interview with Alice B. Toklas. Ms. Toklas, already in her mid-70s, was still residing in an apartment she once shared with Gertrude Stein in Paris. The interview, which took place at the end of Autumn 1952, was relatively long—more than six hours—and covered a wide variety of topics, including Toklas's and Stein's childhoods in California, the Paris arts scene, and the difficulties of living under Nazi rule in wartime France. The most compelling element of this interview, though, is Toklas herself, who emerges from Stein's long shadow and proves herself to be a remarkably thoughtful, intelligent, opinionated, and feisty woman in her own right. Some attribute this interview as establishing a "proof of concept" which soon led to the founding of ROHO. Although available to researchers in the Bancroft archives for decades, this interview transcript was made available broadly to the public only this year in junction with The Bancroft Library Gallery exhibit, “A Place at the Table: A Gathering of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Text, Image & Voice.

Listen to a clip from the interview or read the entire transcript.

 



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