The deep purity of joy is a power of its own, and dance sensation Josephine Baker took that joy and made it her life’s work.
Born in 1906 to a poor black single mother, Josephine had every reason to be dour. She was often hungry, and was put to work as a domestic by age eight. Her schooling was over by age twelve, and she often slept rough on the streets of St Louis, scavenging for food. But Josephine’s spirit was unconquerable. She would dance in the street to support herself, soon becoming a member of an all African American dance troupe that worked the Broadway Stage. It was here she made the connections that took her to her spiritual home and truest love, Paris.
At nineteen she performed for the La Revue Nègre, and was an immediate sensation. She felt a deep connection to the French people and the city itself, eventually renouncing her American citizenship to become wholly French. This love she felt was so powerful that when war broke out in 1939, she immediately began working for French intelligence. She attended parties and salons frequented by Axis elites, her savour faire and joyful spirit drawing them close and allowing her to gather information she could to protect her homeland. After Germany invaded France, her status as an entertainer allowed her to move freely around Europe, transporting intelligence, written in invisible ink on her sheet music. Her relentless work during the war years earned her the French Legion of Honour. After the war she became heavily involved in the American civil rights movement. She pursued justice and joy for everyone, regardless of race or religion, for her whole life, even adopting twelve children from all over the world. They lived together as a Rainbow Family, a living testament to her belief that without the barriers of race of religion people will always find a way to love one another.
That unconquerable brightness of spirit carried her through her life. She was found comfortably passed away in her bed, four days after a stellar performance at her 50 year revue, surrounded by glowing reviews of her final show. The joy she felt performing burned bright for her till the moment of her passing, no matter what life threw at her.
What would Josephine Wear?
If we could give Josephine a gift from our collection, the Santorini Set would be perfect. Luxurious yet playful, the brightness of the silk and the playfulness of the cut is idea for this joyful dancer.