Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald is generally remembered as the flamboyant wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda, named after a gypsy queen in a novel, however, was a talented writer in her own right, recognized for her biting, bantering style. Ballet and painting were also important in Fitzgerald’s life. She took ballet lessons in France during the 1920’s, and some of her paintings, exhibited in New York City during the 1930’s and 1940’s, were influenced by dancers. She also wrote a ballet libretto.
The daughter and sixth child of Minnie Machen and Anthony Sayre, a judge on Alabama’s Supreme Court, Zelda Sayre wrote poetry from an early age. A talented, glamorous Montgomery belle, Zelda was writing magazine articles when she met a young soldier at a Montgomery country-club dance on April 3, 1920. She married F. Scott Fitzgerald later in 1920, one week after the publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise. By 1922, Fitzgerald had given birth to her daughter, Scottie, and the Fitzgeralds had moved to New York City. Soon they moved to the less costly and more intellectually stimulating French Riviera. The couple’s turbulent and extravagant lifestyle, fueled by copious amounts of alcohol, and Zelda’s ensuing mental breakdowns—the first occurred in 1930—created many problems and generated considerable notoriety.
She and her husband embodied the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, living frantic and reckless lives of excess. The embodiment of the flapper, Fitzgerald is said to have stated that “flapperdom” allowed women to “capitalize on their natural resources and get their money’s worth. They are merely applying business methods to being young.” When asked to describe herself, she flippantly responded that she was “independent, courageous, without thought for...
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