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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The characters of Gertrude Stein's Three Lives (published in 1909) center around the lives of three women: Anna, Melanctha, and Lena. Though their lives to not intersect, all take place in the fictional city of Bridgeport.

Anna is a German-born working-class woman, who spends her life working in many households. Her overly-generous nature makes it difficult for her to make ends meet. She dies while working in the household of Miss Mathilda, until the latter leaves for Europe. Only having loved one woman, the widow, Mrs. Lehntman, Anna dies during an operation.

Melanctha is a mulatto woman. She befriends numerous people from her town, including Rose Johnson, her friend from church whose baby she helped deliver, though the baby did not live long. As a child herself, Melanctha did not like her parents, and her parents resented her. Melacntha lived a sexually promiscuous life, going out with men from the upper classes; however, she never allows them to get too close, until she meets one Jefferson Campbell, a shy, black, doctor. They split up eventually owing to very different personalities. Melanctha first enjoys her freedom, then carries on with Jem Richards, who bet on horses for a living. Melanctha, however, dies single and alone from consumption.

Lena Mainz, the final protagonist, comes to Bridgeport from Germany with her cousin. She is teased a bit as a servant girl, but eventually marries Herman Kreder, the son of two stingy parents, who force him to get married against his will. Herman doesn't like the company of women, and Lena has no interest in marrying; nevertheless, the two eventually marry. Lena bears three children whom Herman loves tenderly, though Lena feels as though her husband doesn't love her. She dies giving birth to her fourth child, a still-born.

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