Josephine Baker

1906 (St Louis, Mo.) – 1975 (Paris)

If Baker is a minor footnote in culture, she is an interestingly complex one. Having worked aged thirteen as Smith’s dresser, her first big break came from Blake and Sissle. Bechet sailed to France with her, fellow members of La Revue Nègre. Le Corbusier is rumoured to have been a lover: Simenon certainly was. Poiret dressed and sued her, Reinhardt watched her frolic, and Balanchine, knocking on her door, found her wearing only three flowers. Ellington said there was nothing she didn’t know about stagecraft. She was a respected colleague of King’s, the only female speaker on the March to Washington.

Josephine Baker knew…