Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker
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  • EARLY LIFE
  • YOUTH
  • WORK
  • She was born as in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Carrie McDonald. Carrie and Eddie, (her father) had a song-and-dance act, playing wherever they could get work. When Josephine was about a year old they began to carry her onstage occasionally during their finale.
  • WAR CONTRIBUTION
  • Baker dropped out of school at the age of 13 and lived as a street child in the slums of St. Louis, sleeping in cardboard shelters and scavenging for food in garbage cans. Street-corner dancing attracted attention, and she was recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show at the age of 15.
  • WORK
  • In Paris, she became an instant success for her erotic dancing, and for appearing practically nude on stage. After a short while, Baker was the most successful American entertainer working in France. Ernest Hemingway called her "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."
  • DEATH
  • During World War II, Baker collected what information she could about German troop locations from officials she met at parties. She specialized in gatherings at embassies and ministries, charming people as she had always done, while gathering information.
  • Bolstered by recognition of her wartime heroics, Baker the performer assumed a new dignity, unafraid to take on serious music or subject matter. The engagement was a rousing success, and reestablished Baker as one of Paris' preeminent entertainers.
  • The only American-born woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Baker's funeral was the occasion of a huge ceremony.
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