Sunday, June 3, 2007

On June 3, ...

... 1906, Freda Josephine McDonald was born to a washerwoman and a vaudeville drummer, in St. Louis, Missouri. The infant would come to be known as Josephine Baker (left), who became an "overnight sensation" in the 1920s, when she traveled to Paris and danced scantily clad in costumes of feathers or bananas. During World War II she smuggled messages, scrawled on music sheets, for the French Resistance, and served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force -- service for which she was awarded a Médaille de la Résistance française and appointed a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. In postwar years she returned to the United States to fight racism, which had thwarted her attempts for success at home. Following her death in Paris in 1975, Baker became the 1st American woman ever to be buried with French military honors.
... 1621, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands granted a charter to the Dutch West India Company. Authorizing the company to pursue trade throughout much of the globe, the charter was intended to stymy competition from Spain and Portugal, and it operated to advance Dutch colonization and slave trafficking in the Americas.


Judith Weingarten said...

Would a Josephine Baker (if such can be imagined) now receive a feminine form of the Légion d'honneur, as a Chevalière, perhaps, instead of a Chevalier? Does anyone know?

All good wishes,

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Diane Marie Amann said...

Dear Judith,
Thanks for the question. As far as I can tell the official title remains "Chevalier" regardless. Though Quebecoise often add an "e" -- "professeure," for instance -- this is not the norm in France. Perhaps if Mme Royal had won the change would have been hastened.
Incidentally, the June 3 NY Times had a great review of a new book on Josephine Baker, which emphasizes not so much her life story per se as her efforts to construct her life story and image. See: