Days Gone By - stories from the past

The author of ‘The Great Gatsby’, F. Scott Fitzgerald married an Alabamian, Zelda Sayre

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald an American novelist and the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald 1921

zelda and scott 1921

She was an icon of the 1920s—dubbed by her husband “the first American Flapper.” After the success of his first novel,This Side of Paradise (1920), the Fitzgeralds became celebrities.

The following excerpt is from

She was born July 24, 1900 in Montgomery, Alabama, to the youngest of six children. Her mother, Minerva Buckner “Minnie” Machen (November 23, 1860 – January 13, 1958), named her after characters in two little-known stories: Jane Howard’s “Zelda: A Tale of the Massachusetts Colony” (1866) and Robert Edward Francillon’s “Zelda’s Fortune” (1874).Zelda_Fitzgerald_portrait

A spoiled child, Zelda was doted upon by her mother, but her father, Anthony Dickinson Sayre (1858–1931)—a justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama and one of Alabama’s leading jurists—was a strict and remote man.

Judge Anthony D. Sayre

Judge Anthony Dickinson Sayre


The family had descended from early settlers of Long Island, who had moved to Alabama before the Civil War. By the time of Zelda’s birth, the Sayres were a prominent Southern family. Her great-uncle, John Tyler Morgan, served six terms in the United States Senate; her paternal grandfather edited a newspaper in Montgomery; and her maternal grandfather was Willis Benson Machen, who served a partial term as a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

Her siblings were Anthony Dickinson Sayre, Jr. (1894–1933), Marjorie Sayre (Mrs. Minor Williamson Brinson) (1886–1960), Rosalind Sayre (Mrs. Newman Smith) (1889–1979) and Clothilde Sayre (Mrs. John Palmer) (1891–1986).

As a child Zelda Sayre was extremely active. She danced, took ballet lessons and enjoyed the outdoors.zelda fitzgerald ballet

In 1914 Sayre began attending Sidney Lanier High School. She was bright but uninterested in her lessons. Her work in ballet continued into high school, where she had an active social life. Though she drank, smoked and spent much of her time with boys, she remained a leader in the local youth social scene. A newspaper article about one of her dance performances quoted her as saying that she cared only about “boys and swimming.”zelda fitzgerald

She developed an appetite for attention, actively seeking to flout convention—whether by dancing the Charleston, or by wearing a tight, flesh-colored bathing suit to fuel rumors that she swam nude.

Her father’s reputation was a safety net, preventing her social ruin. Southern women of the time were expected to be delicate, docile and accommodating. Sayre’s antics were shocking to those around her, and she became—along with her childhood friend and future Hollywood starlet Tallulah Bankhead—a mainstay of Montgomery gossip.

Her ethos was encapsulated beneath her high-school graduation photo:

Why should all life be work, when we all can borrow.
Let’s think only of today, and not worry about tomorrow.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald first met in July 1918 when he was in the Army and based at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama.

After their life as world celebrities, and a tumultuous marriage,, Zelda’s life ended tragically. From the mid-1930s, Zelda spent the rest of her life in various stages of mental distress and in and out of hospitals and sanatoriums.

F. Scott Fitzgerald died in December 1940 and Zelda was unable to attend the funeral. They only had one child, Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald. She became a writer and journalist. Scottie was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1992.

On the night of March 10, 1948, a fire broke out in the hospital kitchen. Zelda was locked into a room, awaiting electroshock therapy. The fire moved through the dumbwaiter shaft, spreading onto every floor. The fire escapes were wooden, and caught fire as well. Nine women, including Zelda, died.

The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald

Check out all these books by Alabama Author Donna R Causey


See larger image
Additional Images:

The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald (Paperback)

Features: Used Book in Good Condition
By (author): Zelda Fitzgerald
List Price:$29.95 USD
New From:$28.53 USD In Stock

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


  1. Kathryn McCormick Benson

    There is a wonderful biography of her life…. published sometime in 83 by Nancy Mitford.

  2. Jeff Ford

    The colorful eccentrics come from the South. It’s the heat.

  3. […] Alabama during World War I,  the famous author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre (1900–1948), the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court justice and the “golden girl”, […]

  4. Cassandra Nancy Kenfield-Lea

    go to amazon video and watch the pilot for a proposed series about Zelda…then VOTE FOR IT!!! to be produced!!!!

  5. Lynn Lupei

    Zelda died in an Asheville, NC facility. Local tour tells the sad story of her death.

  6. Stacey Weldon

    I loved their story. I did a paper on them in high school….so many many years ago.

  7. Janet Nelson Eubanks

    Such a beautiful and tragic couple. The exhibits at the house in Montgomery are wonderful to see.

  8. Jayne Taber Llull

    Thoroughly enjoyed her biography. Smart and independent!

  9. Jennifer Lee

    How funny to see this today! I am reading a book about her right now! Lol!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.