On this day in 1929, Louise Bryant’s husband discovered letters between his wife and the out lesbian socialite and sculptor, Gwen Le Gallienne, that outed the women’s secret
affair. The discovery of the relationship lead to the unraveling of both women’s
Both women were members of
upper-class society, Gwen being the stepdaughter of famous English novelist Richard
Le Gallienne and the stepsister of popular Broadway actress Eva Le Gallienne, and
Louise being the wife of the wealthy American diplomat William Christian Bullitt Jr. Gwen was born in Paris to the famous sculptor Roland Hinton Perry and his wife Irma, but
was later adopted by her mother’s second husband, Richard, and would become a
sculptor herself later in life. Louise grew up in San Francisco, California
with a journalist and labor reformer father. She would eventually become an
outspoken figure in the first wave feminist movement and a Communist political
activist who hung around the likes of Emma Goldman and Eugene O’Neill.
Gwen Le Gallienne poses next to one of her sculptures (x).
In 1932, Louise wed William
Christian Bullitt Jr., her third husband, and the couple moved to Paris.
The marriage was a rocky one from the start; Louise had convinced William that
she was only 28-years-old when in truth she was 38 at the time of their
marriage. Nevertheless, the two moved about the circles of fellow wealthy
expatriates who lived in Paris in the 1920s and had two children together; their daughter was named Anne Moen Bullitt and they later adopted a Turkish boy named
Refik. The affair with Gwen is believed to
have begun in 1926. Whereas Louise had previously abstained from alcohol and
was a voracious writer, the pressures of being the wife of a wealthy man such
as William, which she had never experienced before, started to get to her and
she stopped writing, began drinking heavily, and fled to her society friend Gwen
for “comfort,” among other things.
In December 1923, Bryant married William Christian Bullitt Jr., former assistant secretary of state. In this photo, Bryant is holding their daughter, Anne, who was born the following February. In 1925 the couple adopted a Turkish boy, Refik, here standing at left (x).
After Louise’s husband discovered
letters between the two women on September 28, 1929, the affair ended and
scandal ensued. William divorced Louise and was awarded full custody of their
children, citing alcoholism and lesbianism as reasons Louise was not fit to be
a mother. Although the affair put strains on Gwen’s marriage, this was not the
first time she was found to have relationships with other women; she had
long been, and would continue to be for the rest of her life, a presence in the lesbian clubs and salons of Paris. After the
discovery, Louise was abandoned by her family and attempted suicide, but she wouldn’t pass away until 1936 from a brain hemorrhage. Gwen maintained her support network of lesbian friends such
as Berenice Abbott and Djuna Barnes before passing away in London several years later.