Gertrude Stein

Wars I Have Seen 3

... one day one of the mothers in the town told me that her nine year old daughter had been praying every single day that she might see an American soldier and she never had and now the mother was beginning to be afraid that the child would lose faith in prayer. I said I would take her down to see the American soldiers and we went. Naturally they were sweet and each one of them thought of something to give her, candies chewing gum, one of them gave her one of the U.S. badges they wear on their caps and one gave her a medal that the Pope had blessed in Rome and given to the American soldiers. And she was so happy, she sang them all the old French songs, Claire de la Lune, The Good King Dagobert and On the Bridge of Avignon.

Then as we were going home I said to her, about that chewing gum you must chew it but be careful not to swallow it. Oh yes I know she said. How do you know that I asked oh she said because when there was the last war my mother was a little girl and the American soldiers gave her chewing gum and all through this war my mother used to tell us about it, and she gave a rapturous sigh and said and now I have it.

Gertrude Stein: “Wars I Have Seen” (1945; London: Brilliance Books, 1984), 254.

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Gertrude Stein


Having left Paris for Majorca in 1915 “to forget the war a little,” Gertrude Stein (b. February 3, 1874 in Allegheny, PA, d. July 27, 1946 in Paris) and her partner Alice B. Toklas returned to their adoptive country in 1916 to join the war effort. , delivering relief supplies to hospitals around France from 1917 until the end of the war. In Wars I Have Seen (1945), written during WWII in her signature style, Stein put the 1914-1918 war in a larger historical perspective.