Freda Josephine was born on 3 June 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the daughter of Carrie MacDonald and Eddie Carson. In ca 1907, her father left the family. Her mother later had three children with Arthur Martin. Her half siblings were: Richard, Margaret, and Willie Mae. According to Josephine Baker, "Because I was born in a cold city, because I felt cold throughout my childhood … I always wanted to dance on the stage..." Josephine married Willie Wells in 1919. The marriage soon ended. She then joined the Jones Family Band. Josephine made her stage debut at the Booker T. Washington Theater, in St. Louis. Josephine then became a dresser for Clara Smith in the Dixie Steppers. Josephine married her second husband, Will Baker in 1920. In April 1921, Josephine became a chorus girl when the Dixie Steppers were touring in Philadelphia. In August 1922, Josephine Baker joined the chorus line of the touring show of Shuffle Along in Boston. In 1924, Josephine Baker joined Caroline Dudley's troupe. She went to France on 22 September 1925. According to Josephine Baker; "It (the Eiffel Tower) looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what did that matter? What was the good of having the statue without the liberty?" And; "I like Frenchmen very much, because even when they insult you they do it so nicely." In the fall of 1926, she met Pepito Abatino. He became her lover and manager. In December 1926, she opened her own nightclub called Chez Joséphine, in Pigalle.
"...I improvised, crazed by the music... Even my teeth and eyes burned with fever. Each time I leaped I seemed to touch the sky and when I regained earth it seemed to be mine alone."
In 1927, Josephine Baker appeared in the motion picture La Sir ne des Tropiques. From 1928 to 1930, she went on a world tour. Back in France she said; "I don't want to be without Paris. It's my country. Understand? I have to be worthy of Paris. I want to become an artist."
"I wasn't really naked. I simply didn't have any clothes on."In 1930, she opened at the Casino de Paris. The producer, Henri Varna, bought her a leopard, Chiquita. In 1934, she starred in Zou-Zou. In December 1934, in the revival of Offenbach's La Créole, at the Théâtre Marigny. In 1935, she starred in Princesse Tam-Tam. Abatino died in 1936. At the time, Josephine was in America with the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1937, Josephine Baker officially became a French citizen. Josephine Baker married her third husband, Jean Lion in 1937.
"Beautiful? It's all a question of luck. I was born with good legs. As for the rest... beautiful, no. Amusing, yes."Baker and Lion were divorced in 1940. During World War II, Josephine became a Red Cross nurse. When Germany occupied France, she worked for the French Resistance as an underground courier to Captain Jacques Abtey. In December 1940, Baker appeared in La Créole. She entertained troops in North Africa and the Middle East for the Free French forces. Josephine Baker was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d'Honneur. Josephine Baker married her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon in June 1947. He was a jazz bandleader. In 1950, she began adopting orphaned babies at her estate Les Milandes, in the Dordogne. Her adopted children were: Akio, Janot, Jari, Luis, Jean-Claude, Mose, Marianne, Brahim, Koffi, Mara, Noel and Stellina. In 1956, she retired to look after the estate and family. Baker and Bouillon were separated in 1957. In May 1959, Josephine Baker returned to show business, in Paris mes Amours, at the Olympia Theatre, in Paris.
"I believe in prayer. It's the best way we have to draw strength from heaven."
Josephine Baker took part in the civil rights march on 28 August 1963, in Washington. In 1969, she was evicted from Les Milandes. Princesse Grace de Monaco (1929-1982) and her husband, Prince Rainier III de Monaco offered Josephine and her family a villa in Monaco. Josephine Baker married Robert Brady in 1973. In 1975, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III helped to put on the spectacle Josephine. According to Josephine Baker; "I have never really been a great artist. I have been a human being that has loved art, which is not the same thing. But I have loved and believed in art and the idea of universal brotherhood so much, that I have put everything I have into them, and I have been blessed." She continued; "A violinist had a violin, a painter his palette. All I had was myself. I was the instrument that I must care for." And; "The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains." Josephine Baker died of a stroke on 12 April 1975. The Roman Catholic funeral service was held at the Church of the Madeleine, in Paris, France.
"Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one's soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood." Josephine Baker