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Archive for the ‘journalists’ Category

She Saw Hitler

Eleanor Roosevelt with Dorothy Thompson in 1942

New York, N.Y.

Dorothy Thompson house

237 East 48th Street

Dorothy Thompson (1894-1961), one of the most intrepid foreign correspondents of her day and the author of I Saw Hitler, was once married to writer Sinclair Lewis, but the great love of her life was Christa Winsloe, author of the novel upon which the classic lesbian film Mädchen in Uniform was based. After the break with both of them, Thompson lived alone in this three-story brownstone in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan from 1941 to 1957. She spent more than $20,000 for renovations to make it, as she wrote, “the most perfect small house I have ever seen.”

Thompson’s “small” home included a library with more than 3,000 books, five fireplaces, and a third-floor study for writing. In the drawing room, a wine-colored satin sofa could hold, she bragged, five of “the most distinguished bottoms in New York.” When the renovations were complete, Thompson invited a reporter from Look magazine to inspect the final product, and he remarked admiringly on the many telephones, intercoms, and labor-saving devices throughout the house.

In the front door were eight painted glass panels showing Thompson in medieval attire performing various tasks – writing, lecturing, greeting guests. There was also the house’s motto: “Gallus in sterquilinio suo plurimum potest.” (“The rooster on his own dunghill is very much in charge.”) New York’s Historic Landmark Preservation Center placed a medallion on Thompson’s brownstone in 1995.

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Indianapolis, Ind.

Janet Flanner birthplace
952 North Delaware

It’s a paint store now, but it was at this location in the St. Joseph Historic District – a fashionable neighborhood of large homes and wide avenues – that journalist Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was born. Her father was a mortician who co-owned a funeral home, ambulance service, and the state’s only crematorium. Her mother was a published poet and producer of amateur theatricals. Though his family was embarrassed by his profession, Frank Flanner’s social position in Indianapolis was suggested by a notice in a local newspaper: “A newcomer to our fair city asked what she might do to become adjusted socially and correctly in our city. The reply was join the Riviera Club, send your children to Mrs. Gates’ Dancing School, and be buried by Flanner and Buchanan.”

Sadly, when Janet was 20 years old, her father poisoned himself in his own mortuary. The scandal rocked Indianapolis, and gossip-mongers blamed everyone from his wife to his business partner to his mother. In her novel The Cubicle City (1926), Janet Flanner based the idealistic, yet suicidal real estate broker, James Poole, on her own father.

Flanner became a journalist after a brief stint at the University of Chicago. After a few years in New York mingling with the literati and married to a man she didn’t love, Flanner spent most of her adult life abroad, following her first love, journalist Solita Solano, there in 1922. The two women settled in Paris, becoming part of the American artists’ community. Flanner was a regular at Natalie Barney’s salon, and she and Solano were so well known among expatriate lesbians that they appeared as “Nip and Tuck” in Djuna Barnes’ lesbian roman a clef, Ladies Almanack. (She is shown above in a 1927 photo by another lesbian expatriate, Berenice Abbott.)

Flanner is perhaps best remembered for the column “Letter from Paris,” on French culture and personalities, which she wrote for The New Yorker for 50 years, from 1925 until 1975. For her pen name, New Yorker publisher Harold Ross suggested “Genet,” a Gallicized “Janet.” The best of her columns were later collected in the volume Paris Was Yesterday (1972).

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