E va
L e
G allienne


As a Child

Eva was not allowed to interrupt her famous father, poet Richard Le Gallienne, but often they would play truant together, hunting butterflies and wild flowers. Unable to resist her "little broad indomitable face," he would stop his work and carry her up to the gorse-lit moorland nearby. As a Child One day, when he saw an adder while walking through the woods he decided to lure Eva away from her dolls so, she could see it. He hid behind a hedge of flowering laurel, plucked a red rose from a nearby bush, and threw it on her lap. 'If there is one thing I love about her," he wrote later, "it is the calm way she takes surprises." She looked silently at the rose, then with her strong, quiet eyes gazed around to see where it had come from. Once she caught sighs of her father, thev went running off to one of their secret hiding places, a hollow of fern surrounded by birches.

Eva asked, "why are some roses red and some white," "I will tell you, Eva," he replied, "when you can tell me why sister's hair is black and yours is golden." The answer made a profound impression on Eva, and she pondered it "in the unfathomable deeps of her baby brain." She began questioning everything that grew or sang or moved in the woods. "Eva is of a different temper," her father noted a couple years later. "She is an exact scientist, and insists on knowing the name and the how and the why of every leaf and flower and insect that crosses our path." She even wanted to know what the birds were saying.'

For more on:

Eva Le Gallienne

Richard Le Gallienne

Oscar Wilde

Eva with Nana
Eva with her faithful
companion Nana

Behind Closed Doors

As early as the mid 1920s NY reporters were already hinting more and more about Eva's sexual orientation. A critic for The Swan noted that when the script called for her to show feminine tenderness or to reciprocate masculine ardor, she was not on sure ground. "The soft, feminine note is missing," he explained, "a matter of temperament, probably."

It was not without danger for women to love other women. Most psychologists of the day argued that same-sex love was dysfunctional and that women afflicted with love for other women were abnormal. In some parts of the country, in fact, living a lesbian life was grounds for being committed to an insane assylum. These condemned women were thought to be suffering from androphobia (fear of men) and were labeled "twisted," "inverts," and "degenerates."

This homophobia sharply challenged Le Gallienne's attitudes. As she grappled with this confusion within herself, she recalled the plight of her father's friend, Oscar Wilde--the tragedy,

Oscar Wilde
the humiliation, the two years imprisonment at hard labor. She read about other lesbians whose same-sex love produced self-loathing and suicide. What complicated her situation was that she was extremely shy and yet had a career where she was forced to be in the public eye.
Copyright 2006, Robert A Schanke. All rights reserved.