Natalie Clifford Barney was born in Dayton on October 31, 1876. Her family was wealthy and industrious, including her great grandfather who founded the Dayton Academy, Cooper Female Seminary, and Dayton Car Works. Natalie, who knew that she was a lesbian by age twelve, lived an outspoken and independent life unusual for a woman of this time period. Her openness and pride about her sexuality, without shame, was at least one hundred years ahead of its time. She published Some Portrait-Sonnets of Women, a book of love poems to women under her own name in 1900. American painter Romaine Brooks was Barney’s partner and companion for fifty years.
Natalie Clifford Barney moved to Paris, France in 1909 where she wrote fiction, verse, essays, drama, epigrams, and several memoirs. She hosted an infamous literary salon for fifty years where the leading writers and artists of the time gathered. In 1927, she formed a group to honor female writers because the French Academy was limited to men. Barney repeatedly sought to advance the rights of women and is considered a top French feminist writer of the 20th century. She was the inspiration for characters in at least twelve books, including Valerie Seymour in the Well of Loneliness. Barney died in 1972 and is buried in Paris while her parents are interred in Dayton in Woodland Cemetery.