Ohioana Literary Trail: Natalie Clifford Barney ahead of her time

Natalie  Clifford Barney
Natalie Clifford Barney

Part 2 of a 5-part series on remarkable Ohio writers

We continue the tour of local stops on the Ohioana Literary Trail (http://www.ohioana.org/rescources/the-ohio-literary-trail/) with the marker for Natalie Clifford Barney, a Dayton native (born Oct. 31, 1876) who was 100 years ahead of her time in being an out lesbian, and writing and publishing love poems to women. She also conducted a literary salon for more than 60 years, after becoming an expatriate in Paris, which influenced numerous literary luminaries, including Truman Capote.

Her marker is located in Cooper Park (East Second Street and North St. Clair Street, in Dayton), in the park’s southwest corner, near the Dayton Metro Library main building.

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To quote the verbiage on the marker: “Natalie Clifford Barney was born in Dayton on October 31, 1876. Her family was wealthy and industrious, including her great grandfather who founded the Dayton Academy, Cooper Female Seminary, and Dayton Car Works. Natalie, who knew that she was a lesbian by age twelve, lived an outspoken and independent life unusual for a woman of this time period. Her openness and pride about her sexuality, without shame, was at least one hundred years ahead of its time. She published Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women, a book of love poems to women under her own name in 1900. American painter Romaine Brooks was Barney’s partner and companion for fifty years. Natalie Clifford Barney moved to Paris, France in 1909 where she wrote fiction, verse, essays, drama, epigrams, and several memoirs. She hosted an infamous literary salon for fifty years where the leading writers and artists of the time gathered. In 1927, she formed a group to honor female writers because the French Academy was limited to men. Barney repeatedly sought to advance the rights of women and is considered a top French feminist writer of the 20th century. She was the inspiration for characters in at least twelve books, including Valerie Seymour in the Well of Loneliness. Barney died in 1972 and is buried in Paris while her parents are interred in Dayton in Woodland Cemetery.”

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The marker is sponsored by the Greater Dayton LGBT Center, The Living Beatitudes Community/Dignity Dayton, Gay Ohio History Initiative, and Ohio History Connection.

Learn more about Barney in this essay on Ohio History Connection’s website: https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/collections/history/history-blog/march-2020/nataliecliffordbarney

Enjoy a sampling of her poetry here: https://www.beltwaypoetry.com/barney-natalie-clifford/

Upcoming literary events:

  • Tuesday, May 4, 7-8:30 p.m. — Wright Memorial Library presents its final Write@Wright program of the 2020-2021 season, featuring Jessica Strawser, presenting “10 All-Time Best Writing Lessons From 10 Years of Interviews With the All-Time Best Writers.” Strawser, editor-at-large at Writer’s Digest and novelist (most recently “A Million Reasons Why”), draws on her decade’s worth of experience interviewing writers such as Alice Walker, David Sedaris, Khaled Hosseini and other notables. Her presentation draws from these interviews to distill the top 10 writing lessons that writers at any level can apply to their own work. The program, presented virtually, is free but registration is required: https://wrightlibrary.org/WriteMay PLEASE NOTE: This program will not be recorded. Recordings of past workshops can be found at wrightlibrary.org/writingseries
  • Tuesday, May 4, 7 p.m. (online) — The Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton’s 2020-2021 Cultural Arts and Book Series wraps up with “Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes,” by Jeremy Benstein. The event is free and held via Zoom. To receive detailed information and get the Zoom link, go to https://jewishdayton.org, click on the Cultural Arts & Book Series logo.
  • Wednesday, May 6, 7-8 p.m. — Washington-Centerville Library presents “Let’s Get Graphic!” with Stephanie Bange, children’s literature consultant and former director of Wright State University’s Educational Resource Center. The program reviews the current world of graphic novels, including publishers, classic titles and more. The virtual program is free but registration is required. Contact Debe Dockins at 937-610-4429 or ddockins@wcpl.lib.oh.us. Learn more about the program at https://www.wclibrary.info and click on “Programs.”
  • Through May 7 — ”Mock Turtle Zine,” an independent literary zine published in Dayton, is open to submissions of poetry, prose, drama and art. Read past issues and find out more about how to submit your work at https://www.mockturtlezine.com/
  • Saturday May 8, 1-4 p.m., and Saturday, May 15, 1-4 p.m. — Word’s Worth Writing Center (www.wordsworthdayton.com) and Indiana Writing Center (www.indianawriters.org) are teaming up for this two-part series on “When Fact and Fiction Collide: Research Skills for Aspiring Writers.” The classes, online via Zoom, are taught by authors Katrina Kittle (from Word’s Worth of Dayton) and Angela Jackson-Brown (from the Indiana Writers Center). The classes explore both how to research and how to keep researching from stalling your writing project. Visit www.wordsworthdayton.com for more information and to register.
  • Wednesday May 12, 6:30-8 p.m. — Word’s Worth Writing Center (www.wordsworthdayton.com) offers a “Writing Workout at Home” (via Zoom) presented by novelist, editor and writing instructor Christina Consolino. Visit the website for more information and to register.

Sharon Short writes historical mysteries under the pen name Jess Montgomery (www.jessmontgomeryauthor.com). Send her column ideas, book club news, or literary events at sharonshort1983@gmail.com.

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