Thelma Ellen Wood  was an American sculptor
(July 3 1901 – December 10 1970).
born in Kansas and grew up
in St. Louis,
She was the second of four children
Sculpting career, volatile relationships
very little of her work survives, Wood's drawings were exhibited at
least once, at Milch Galleries in New York City in 1931, where they were favorably reviewed.
sketchbook from a trip to Berlin is in the
Barnes papers at the University of
Maryland, College Park.
Although always considering herself a
sculptor, Wood is little known for her work, and better known for
her usually unstable lesbian relationships with other famous women
of the time.
1921, she moved from St. Louis to Paris in order to
study sculpture, and visited Berlin, a party
city at the time for those with foreign money.
drawn to a partying lifestyle, and was said to have enjoyed
excessive alcohol consumption, and being involved in casual sexual
relationships. Accounts from the time, and from those who knew
Wood, often describe her as being boyish-looking
6 feet tall, and sexually magnetic
In the fall of 1921, photographer Berenice Abbott
met Wood and became her
lover for a brief time. Abbott remained a close friend to Wood for
life. She later introduced Wood to poet Djuna Barnes
, and made photographic portraits
of both of them. Wood also had a brief relationship with the poet
Edna St. Vincent Millay
during the early 1920s.
Barnes/Wood, passion and jealousy
Barnes and Wood began a passionate relationship that lasted from
1921 to 1929. Barnes encouraged Wood to take up silverpoint
, in which fine line images are
created on paper from the residue of silver from a stylus. Wood
crafted erotically charged drawings of animals, exotic plants, and
fetishistic objects such as shoes.
Barnes was known for her jealousy with her lesbian lovers; Wood was
known to be promiscuous
with many women.
The combination was an explosive one. Fueled by sex, alcohol, and
marred at times by infidelities, jealousy, and violence, the
relationship was called the "great love"
of each of their
lives. Although Barnes wanted their relationship to be monogamous,
Wood regularly sought out casual sexual partners of both genders.
Barnes, also, was never faithful.
Wood soon became involved in an affair with a wealthy woman named
Henriette McCrea Metcalf (1888 – 1981), which effectively caused
Barnes to end her relationship with Wood. 
moved to Greenwich
Village in New York City in 1928, Metcalf followed.
Wood continued to write and visit Barnes, to whom Wood still
professed her love, and the two did occasionally have sexual
encounters during that time, but Barnes refused to become involved
with Wood on a regular basis. By 1932, Wood was more of an unofficial
courtesan to Metcalf, and Metcalf
supported Wood's art studies in Florence.
they moved to Sandy Hook, Connecticut. In Westport, Connecticut, Wood tried (with Metcalf's financial assistance)
to run a gourmet catering business that failed.
relationship with Metcalf was complicated by Wood continuing to
seek out drinking and sexual companions of both sexes, and Wood
became increasingly unfaithful. 
, Barnes' best-known novel, was published in
1936, Wood, called "Robin Vote" in the book, was outraged and
stopped speaking to Barnes completely. Wood is said to have felt
misrepresented, and claimed that the publication of the book ruined
her life. Barnes reportedly did not object to their no longer
speaking to one another, and never made any apologies.
Around 1942 or 1943, her relationship with Metcalf had deteriorated
to a breaking point due to Wood's unfaithful sexual activities and
lack of any gainful employment, and Metcalf offered Wood money to
move out of their shared house and effectively ended their
sixteen-year relationship. Once the separation was complete,
Metcalf never spoke to Wood again, even when Wood, dying, requested
to see her.
1943, and perhaps one factor bringing on the break with Metcalf,
Wood became involved with Margaret Behrens (1908 – 1986), a fairly
wealthy realtor and antique dealer, and she moved into Behrens' home in
She did odd jobs for Behrens in a
relationship that lasted until Wood's death twenty-seven years
In the late 1960s, Wood developed breast
, which spread to her spine and lungs. She died in
Danbury Hospital, aged 69. Her ashes were interred in the Behrens
family plot in Bridgeport, Connecticut.