Saturday, March 08, 2014

Josephine Baker and Chiquita

In a world full of very cool women, Josephine Baker was among the coolest. 

Not only was she the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture (Zouzou, 1934) and to become a world-famous entertainer, she was also a spy for the Free French forces during World War II, able to cross borders with secret messages encoded into her sheet music.  

For her spying efforts, France awarded her the Croix de Guerre, and the Rosette de la Résistance, and she was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur by General Charles de Gaulle himself.

After World War II, as part of her life-long battle against racism, Josephine adopted orphans from all over the world, starting with a Korean child she named Jeannot, and then following up with Japanese child (Aiko), a Finnish child (Jari,) and others from Colombia, France, Israel, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela and Morocco, until she had an even dozen living with her in her chateau in southwestern France.

Josephine Baker's famous cheetah, named Chiquita, was given to her by a club owner to use in her act.  Long after the act had disappeared, however, Josephine still had the Cheetah which traveled with her in her car, and which slept in her bed.

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