The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 26, 2017

February 26, 1879

Mabel Dodge, later Mabel Dodge Luhan, (February 26, 1879 to August 13, 1962) inherited banking money, and married more. She became a patron of the arts. tells some of the story. We excerpt a sketch of her life with her second husband, at their villa in Florence, while Mabel has become bored. She was

.... greatly influenced by the Gertrude and Leo Stein's philosophy that the individual could overcome the ill effects of both heredity and environment and create herself anew, Mabel returned to New York. Separated from her husband, Mabel moved to an apartment in Greenwich Village, the heartland of America's avant-garde. There, at 23 Fifth Avenue, she launched the most successful salon in American history. For the next three years Mabel entertained the "movers and shakers" of pre-war America, men and women who were sweeping in their condemnation of bourgeois values and industrial capitalism. Gathered together at one of Mabel's "Wednesday evenings" one might find artists, philosophers, writers, reformers, and radicals of all stripes: Margaret Sanger, Walter Lippmann, Lincoln Steffens, Emma Goldman, "Big Bill" Haywood, and Hutchins Hapgood. Mabel was determined to make herself the mistress of the spirit of her age by embracing its most idealistic and committed men and women.

Mabel Dodge gave generously of her time and money to support the various causes she believed would liberate Americans from the shackles of their Victorian past. She helped to sponsor the watershed Armory show which introduced post-impressionist art to a largely unfamiliar American audience; contributed to The Masses, the leading left-wing literary and political journal of her day; wrote a syndicated newspaper column popularizing Freudian psychology; and supported a host of organizations, among them the Women's Peace Party, the Heterodoxy Club, the Women's Birth Control League, and the Twilight Sleep Association.

Heralded by her friends and the public as the "New Woman," Mabel experimented with free love, having several unsatisfactory affairs, the most famous of which was with radical journalist John Reed. Mabel, who was never able to rid herself of the belief that women could only achieve through men, realized the tremendous gap that existed between the radical, emancipated image she projected and the reality that she was intellectually and emotionally dependent on men.

In 1916 Mabel and her third husband, artist and sculptor Maurice Sterne, moved to Taos, New Mexico. There she finally found the "cosmos" she had been searching for all her life. In the 600-year-old Pueblo culture she saw a model of permanence and stability; a total integration of personality achieved through the organic connection of work, play, community, and environment. Soon she fell in love with Tony Luhan, a fullblooded Pueblo Indian. Divorcing Sterne and marrying Luhan, her fourth and final husband, Mabel viewed their alliance as a bridge between Anglo and Native American cultures.

For the rest of her life Mabel took a leading role in calling "great souls" to Taos to help her create "a city upon a hill." The American Southwest was destined, she believed, to serve as a source of social and psychic renewal for the dying, decadent, and disillusioned postwar white civilization.

Lois Palken Rudnick is one of  Mabel Dodge Luhan's biographers. In her eponymously titled biography (1987) we learn, not about Luhan's cats, but a fictional portrayal of Luhan as a cat lover. The author Rudnick references here is Carl Van Vechten. For Van Vechten's novel, Peter Whiffle (1922) contains a character modeled on Mabel Dodge Luhan.  Rudnick quotes Van Vechten as giving Edith Dale (Luhan) this speech:

The cat understands pure being which is all we need to know and which it takes a life time to learn...all the rest of us are divided into bits of self...the cat has a complete subjective unity....

Mabel Dodge Luhan and Carl Van Vechten were, in real life, good friends.

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