Tuesday, October 13, 2015
She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri in the year 1906. Her mother was called Carrie McDonald and had been adopted by parents who were victims of the slave trade and of African descent. Josephine always identified her father as the respected vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson, but it’s never really been clear if this was true or just hearsay, though Eddie never denied it. A rumor at the time was that Carrie, her mother, had become pregnant by the son of a German family she had been working for. Whilst this was always strenuously denied, the question mark over who her father was still stood. It was shortly after this event that Josephine left home for good. She often slept rough and scavenged food from wherever she could find it. In a desperate attempt to try and earn money for food she took to performing street dances and it was here she was spotted and recruited to play on the chorus line in St. Louis vaudeville. She had some success as a film actress, starring in a raft of European films including the exotically titled “ZouZou” and “Princess Tam Tam”. She was loved and celebrated by the popular artists and authors of the time in the US like Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso who all admired her unique talent and ethereal and unconventional beauty (Baker wore her hair in a very short, masculine Eton crop style). She left France to tour America during the mid 1930s and while her performances were always loved by the public, she never truly received the critical acclaim she sought.