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  • Culture

    Fantastic Femmes Pt2: Josephine Baker

    By Frances Atkinson 16 November 2015

    SHE may not have been born in France, but by her death, Josephine Baker would be remembered as an iconic French performer, as well as a woman who fought racism and defended freedom.

    Born in Missouri in 1906, Baker began her career as a dancer and comic, but she had something unique; a quirky sensuality that intimidated many American audiences, but not the French. In France, Baker could be herself and Parisians were captivated by her stage show, La Revue Negre, featuring her now infamous Banana Dance. Before her death, she received over 1,500 marriage proposals, adopted orphans from all over the world and became best friends with Grace Kelly.

    When World War II broke out, Baker not only remained in France, she became a spy. As she travelled all over Europe, custom officials had no idea that Baker’s music sheets were covered in secret messages using invisible ink. The courageous Baker even concealed photographs of German military installations in her underwear. In recognition of her work, Baker was named a lieutenant in the Free French Air Force and was the first American woman to receive the Croix de Guerre and the Medal of the Resistance in 1946.