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After the interview I did with Lindsey Tramuta and her book, The New Parisienne, The Women and Ideas Shaping Paris,  I started thinking of Parisian-based women who had inspired me as I was growing up.

 

France’s national chanteuse Édith Piaf  (“Je ne regrette rien”) came to mind.

 

Edith Piaf

 

German-French actress Romy Schneider (in two of the most powerful films I have ever seen Le Train(1973) and Le Vieux Fusil (1975) is another heroine of mine.)

 

Romy Schneider

 

The complex fashion mogul Coco Chanel, and feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir are also high on my list.

 

Simone de Beauvoir

 

All of these women were, of course, white, and so, I was dismayed to realize that there was no ethnic diversity among the famous Parisian women to which I and others had been exposed.

 

Then I started reading about Josephine Baker (1906-1975).

 

Josephine Baker was an African American whose ancestors had been slaves in the slums of St. Louis Missouri.  Not someone you would think would one day be the talk of Paris, Josephine basically grew up living on the street actually getting married for the first time at 13.

 

Thankfully that did not work out.  (She married three times after that.)

 

Absolutely nothing was handed to Josephine in her early life — but she had a gift.

 

She could sing and dance, and most importantly, she was determined to live large. 

 

In fact, I have read about or met few people of either sex who did so to this degree.

 

The Marvellous

Josephine Baker

 

 

 

Josephine’s destiny turned a corner when as a chorus girl in Vaudeville, she was part of a troop to tour Paris and found herself smitten with the City of Lights.

 

In what would become a series of firsts, Josephine became the first ‘coloured’ American to then move to Paris.

 

Almost immediately Paris also became smitten with Josephine Baker.

 

Baker’s famous barely-there banana costume and dance caused a sensation in Paris.

 

She was an instant success —  an iconic symbol and siren of the Jazz Age in the Roaring 20s headlining all the major venues across Europe as an exotic dancer, singer, and actress.

 

In fact, Josephine was the first black woman to act in a major motion picture — the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics,

 

But that was not all.

 

In uniform as a member of the French Free Forces in WW2

 

During the Second World War, Josephine was recruited to work for French Resistance wherein her access to high-level societal functions proved fruitful in collecting sensitive information about German troop locations.

 

Josephine risked her life over and over again smuggling info to the appropriate Allied sources using invisible ink on her sheet music.

 

As a result, she was honoured for her service and bravery including awards such as the Croix de guerre from the French military.

 

Baker with her children

 

If that wasn’t enough of a contribution in one life, Josephine adopted a dozen children of various ethnic backgrounds from all over the world to create a truly multinational and multiracial family, and after the war, became an outspoken civil rights activist.

 

Josephine refused to perform in front of segregated audiences, and as the only official female speaker, she stood next to Martin Luther King at the March on Washington in 1963.

 

Such was the stuff that Josephine Baker was made of.  An inspiration to keep living life to the very fullest at any age.

 

Baker To Be Honoured in Paris in November

 

What makes a tribute to her so timely is that it was announced that on November 30th Josephine Baker will be interred in the Panthéon in Paris, the first black woman to receive one of the highest distinctions in France.

 

I am hoping to attend that ceremony while I am in Paris for this newly discovered Parisian heroine of mine.

 

Note: Sadly, Josephine Baker never achieved the equivalent acclaim or reputation in the United States.

Bonus Offer If You Comment Below!

 

Who is a Parisienne that you admire or has inspired you?

 

Love to get your comments.

 

And here’s a bonus.

 

Never left a comment before?  The first two readers to do so will get a FREE TICKET to my next interview below!

 

Nothing to lose!

 

 

My Next Interview

With another Outstanding Woman in Paris is Coming UP!

 

Alison Browne in Paris

 

Please Join Me For

“House sitting in France and Beyond”

with Alison Browne

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

12:30 EST/9:30 am Pacific/6:30 pm Paris/5:30 London  

CLICK HERE to Register

Alison Browne has found all sorts of creative ways to travel through France

and other parts of the world.

One is house sitting where she has ended up

in dreamy family homes taking care

of everything from two chickens (Clara and Fluffy) to three donkeys.

Alison who now lives in Paris

where she will  take us on a personal tour of her adventures,

travelling solo while house sitting in France and other parts of the world.

Check out Alison’s website at Dreamer at Heart.org 

 

Note: If you are an annual member of my interview series, you are already registered!

 

Note: I am a professional journalist and I search out only the most interesting and accomplished guests who agree to be interviewed based on my reputation.  For more information about the WOMEN OF GLOBAL INTEREST series and upcoming Guests, click HERE

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15 Comments

  1. Shardie Stevenson on October 31, 2021 at 9:21 am

    As a singer , I do know the famous Josephine Baker but didn’t realize what an amazing person she really was! Thank you for the details!
    Edith Piaf has always embodied Paris for me… and listening to sultry music in a little cafe/ bar or jazz club! Remember when we went together 😉🎤🎹🎼

    • Diana Bishop on November 1, 2021 at 8:15 am

      I do — and would love to do more of that. Thank you for your comment Shardie. And a great singer you are!

      • Jacquelyn Goudeau on December 1, 2021 at 1:10 pm

        Diana, AKIRI AKI. Is. Mme.de la Maison – the site I told you about.
        Regards, Jacquelyn G

  2. Gretchen Greene O'Brien on October 31, 2021 at 9:24 am

    Thank you for highlighting the unique life of JOSEPHINE BAKER – I had not known of her until now!

    • Diana Bishop on November 1, 2021 at 8:05 am

      You and me both Gretchen. Thank you for your comment. I wasn’t sure if I was the only one, Cheers, Dian

  3. Carol on October 31, 2021 at 10:06 am

    I really enjoyed the story of Josephine Baker! What an amazing woman. I echo Shardie regarding Edith Piaf ~ such an icon with a haunting repertoire! I enjoy your blog posts every week, Diana and will think more about the women of Paris —and report back.

    • Diana Bishop on November 1, 2021 at 8:04 am

      Hi Carol, You are so kind to comment. I don’t think you have every commented before have you? In which case I would love to add you to the list for the November 9th interview at 12:30 pm — are you interested? Diana

  4. dswministries on October 31, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    One of my heroines is Joan of Arc. I visited Roen and was fascinated by her bravery and faith in God in the midst of great resistance. It was horrible that the church burned her at the stake because God spoke to her and guided her in battle.

    • Diana Bishop on November 1, 2021 at 8:07 am

      Hi Diana, oh yes Joan of Arc, Madame Curie, those are iconic French women! Thank you for your comment, and since i do not believe that you have commented before you are elegible for a FREE Ticket to my upcoming Interview with Alison Browne, would that interest you? Diana

      • dswministries on November 1, 2021 at 8:33 am

        Absolutely! I look forward to her interview. Thank you!

  5. Lagatta de Montréal on October 31, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    I’ve finally seen some children’s books about the life and anti-racist courage of Josephine Baker (in France and back in the US). I leafed through them in French, but they might have been translations. The Nazis and the KKK would have been equally pleased to ensure she met a bad end…

    Now there is much more visible diversity and space for women than beforehand in Paris. In mai ’68 there were young women leaders, but they were very much the exception.

    • Diana Bishop on November 1, 2021 at 8:02 am

      Wow, I still cannot believe that I did not know much about her. Quite an education. Hope you are doing well Maria, and always a treat to hear from you, Diana

  6. Trudy Van Buskirk on October 31, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    When I was in university from 1968-71, I had records by both Edith Piaf and Georges Moustaki.I didn’t know anything about Josephine Baker until the late 70s — what a woman!

    • Diana Bishop on November 1, 2021 at 7:59 am

      Hi Trudy, I loved Georges Moustaki as well. I am less familiar with the new chanteux and chanteuses. Thanks so much for your comment. Always a treat hearing from you, Diana

  7. astrid thomas on November 5, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    I admire Marie CURIE, since I’ve read Madame CURIE from Eve CURIE.
    This genius women inspire me.
    In 1897 at the age of 24, she arrived in Paris to continue her studies in mathematics and physics. She is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and to win an other one later.
    I’ve discover the CURIE Museum in Paris: I suggest you to visit this exceptional site , tanks to Pierre et Marie CURIE and their discoveries in medicine.
    The museum is next to the Jardin du Luxembourg, the fabulous romantic garden. I love it!

    See you soon in France, Astrid

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