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Eleanor Ray Bone
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Eleanor Ray Bone, the “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” played an important part in the revival of contemporary Wicca/Witchcraft in Britain and Europe. She claimed to have been initiated by hereditary witches in Cumbria during WWII, and later became one of Gerald B. Gardner’s High Priestesses forming her own covens in London and Brighton. During the early 1960’s and 70’s she was responsible for initiating many people onto the path, and some of the most prominent leaders of the Craft in Britain today, and many European covens can trace their lineage back to her.
Eleanor was born Eleanor Margaret Tilley on the 15th of December 1911 at 1 Spruce Villas, Fleet Road, Fleet, Hampshire. At the time of her birth her father Charlie Tilley was the secretary of a local Golf Club, while her mother Emma Tilley (nee Roper) was the Headmistress of a Girls School. Eleanor naturally received a good education from her parents, but an early experience in childhood caused her to question her religious beliefs, as she explained in a later interview:
“I've held unorthodox views on religion since 8 when my cat died. I was very upset and cried when I asked the Vicar whether the creature had gone to heaven; he replied that animals did not go there. This comment did not sit well with me and I began to read the Golden Bough and became interested in folklore.”
Nothing more about her early life, except at sometime after leaving school she is thought to have joined a theatre company and there began an affair with the musical conductor Jacob Posner. Estranged from his then wife, Posner and Eleanor moved-in and lived together producing two children, a son called John (born 17th Nov 1933) and a daughter called Francesca (date unknown). Later Posner began affair with another woman, circa 1941, and so he and Eleanor parted company.
By this time in order to escape the Nazis blitz that was constantly threatening London, and to aid the war effort, Eleanor went to work on a farm in Cumbria, a rural area in the North of England caring for the elderly owners. One evening their conversations centered on reincarnation and Eleanor stated that she believed in it, at which point the old couple revealed themselves to be hereditary Witches. Later in August 1941 they initiated Eleanor into their coven of traditional witchcraft, and from them she learned all she could before returning to London in 1945.
Eleanor next resurfaces on the 5th of July 1958 when she married Arthur William (‘Bill’) Bone, an engineering instrument maker. It is interesting to note that on their marriage certificate, Eleanor’s father who was clearly still alive and well at that time is listed as a retired Army Colonel, however, no army records of a Colonel (only privates) by his name can be found and nothing more about him is known? By this time Eleanor was working as a registered nurse at “The Brackenburn Rest Home”, located at 4 Birchwood Road, in Tooting Bec, London. After her marriage to Bill, they moved into a flat in a house called “The Towers” at 120 Trinity Road, also in Tooting Bec, which was just a short bus ride away from where she worked.
(present day pics, Dec 2015)
“The Brackenburn Rest Home” - “The Towers”
It is uncertain as to how and when Eleanor became acquainted with Gerald B. Gardner, but it is thought to have been around the end of the 1950’s after reading his book “The Meaning of Witchcraft” published in 1959. Eleanor may have written to him asking for more details about witchcraft and the two became good friends. Gardner later introduced her to the members of his “Bricket Wood” coven in St Albans, Hertfordshire. However, Eleanor as an already experienced Witch, and a Matronly lady in her 40’s, was not really compatible with the trendy younger generation that made up the majority of the Bricket Wood coven members.
Jack Bracelin the then High Priest of the Bricket Wood coven later arranged for her private initiation to the first degree by another High Priest, thought to have been during the Spring of 1961, and then referred her back to Gerald Gardner for further training. Gardner then invited her to the Isle of Man for a month of intensive training and in 1962 raised her through the second and third degrees to High Priestess. Taking the craft name Artemis, Eleanor then “hived-off” to found her own coven in Tooting Bec, London.
Over the next two decades Eleanor trained, initiated and helped many other people to find their paths, and they in turn “hived off” to set up their own covens. Two of her best-known initiates included Madge Worthington and Arthur Eaglen who went on to found the prolific Whitecroft Way coven in South London. In this way Eleanor was ultimately responsible for a large number of down-line initiatory descendants that ensured the survival of the Gardnerian Tradition both in the UK and across Europe.
During the day Eleanor was a registered nurse Matron in charge of running an old folk’s home, while at night she was a High Priestess in charge of a coven of Witches as she explained in a later interview:
“My flat is a four-penny bus ride from the old folk’s home in Streatham, in a house called The Towers. The cauldron inside my front door is no door-stop, it’s part of my other life. I’m not only a witch, but one of Britain’s three High Priestesses. By day I dress for my job as matron in a tweed suit, thick lisle stockings and brogues. By night I dance naked with only a garter on my left thigh. I’ve often wondered what my neighbours at the Towers think of the bumps in the night. I tell them it’s me moving the furniture about.
My coven meets in the living room. I take everything out of the room, clearing off the magic circle on the carpet, and setting up an altar is no easy task. I use a huge old chest on which I lay my ritual knives. Sacrifice? Never. People confuse witches like me with Black Magic. They say the red wine and small cakes I administer to my kneeling coven are a travesty of the Holy Communion. Piffle! They are symbolic of the harvest and we are simply giving thanks to the gods for the grapes and the grain.
It is true that we are always naked at our rituals, but the reason is our search for purity. We don’t wear clothes because they bring foreign particles into our magic circle. Our magic circle is purified with salt water. It is a big ring drawn at the beginning of each ceremony. It is drawn symbolically with the witches’ sword – but I’ve painted mine on the carpet to save time. Once the circle is made, the High Priestess – that’s me – sprinkles salt water all over it. You might call it our equivalent of Holy Water. When the circle has been purified in this way no member of the coven can enter it unless they are naked, for a speck of dust from our everyday clothes might spoil our magic.
Please don’t run away with the idea that we have a sexual orgy. My coven is made up of middle-aged men and women – the kind of people you see in any bus queue. There is nothing sexy about us with our clothes off. We take it all very seriously and a prospective member to the “craft” is watched closely for three months before his or her nomination is put to the vote. That’s how choosy we are.
As high-priestess of the coven I’ve had my share of crank letters, but I’ve a stock answer for those kind of crackpots – I write and tell them it’s a psychiatrist they need, not a witch”.
By day a matron of an old folks home - By night a High Priestess of a witches coven
Eleanor’s connection with other witches through the 1960’s included “Dafo” the mysterious witch of the New Forest coven in Hampshire responsible for initiating Gerald B. Gardner into the Craft during 1939, about whom she talked about in an interview:
“Dafo most certainly did exist and I had the pleasure of visiting her with Gerald Gardner and my husband on many occasions. We were good friends. Dafo talked about the New Forest traditions and seemed to think that the coven had originated from around the time of Rufus— the Norman King who died in the forest. She was a schoolteacher and was also known to my mother who knew her through the Hampshire education circuit. I never met any other members of the New Forest coven and did not practise Wicca with Dafo. She and I were good friends. She confided in me that both she and the New Forest coven gave a sigh of relief when Gerald Gardner moved away to the Isle of Man. They felt he was a publicity seeker and I know for a fact he had never been trusted with any teachings in writing. Dafo and I called Gerald 'The Old Boy'— he was a lovely old man and generous to a fault, people often took advantage of him. I know he had never been initiated beyond the first degree in Wicca”.
Into the early 1960’s a number of publicity scandals threatened to check the progress of the newly evolving Gardnerian Tradition as other people began forming their own covens and traditions. The most famous of these was of course Alex Sanders, who having taken the title “King of the Witches” like Gerald Gardner he actively courted media attention. After the death of Gerald Gardner on the 12th February 1964, it was then left to his three main High Priestesses: Monique Wilson, Patricia Crowther and Eleanor Bone to carry on his legacy and represent the public face of the Gardnerian Tradition in Britain.
Monique Wilson who had founded two covens in Scotland had already become one of his main spokespersons and was dubbed by the press “the Queen of the Witches”, a title that brought on her the disdain of other craft leaders, and in particular Eleanor Bone, who had no time for hypocrisy. Just before Gardner’s death however, Monique initiated Raymond Buckland into the Craft, who went on to found the first Gardnerian coven in the United States.
Monique Wilson with Gerald Gardner - Raymond Buckland and wife Rosemary
Patricia Crowther in the North of England had founded covens in Yorkshire and Lancashire. As a minor show-biz celebrity connected with the entertainment world, Patricia became a frequent guest on radio talk shows, appeared regularly on local television, and traveled up and down the country giving lectures at Universities and other institutions in her efforts to dispel the many myths and misconceptions surrounding the Craft and the Old Religion.
In London, Eleanor was accomplishing much the same in her own way, she was always willing to pose for photographers or give interviews to authors, journalists and researchers. She was motivated not out of personal gain or recognition, but simply trying to represent Wicca and Witchcraft in a positive light. Her sincere hope was that modern society would eventually accept Wicca as a legitimate religion, equal alongside others such like Christianity and Buddhism etc.
In June 1964 Eleanor invited a newspaper photographer to photograph parts of a secret initiation ceremony held in the remote witches cottage deep in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire. Initiations at the cottage were always conducted skyclad (naked)…
Cottage in Locket Wood, Hertfordshire
… And in May 1965 to witness and photograph a fire ritual held at the famous Rollright Stones circle in Wiltshire:
Rollright Stones circle in Wiltshire
In 1966 Eleanor and Patricia Crowther came together to denounce Alex Sanders as the “King of the Witches”, a title they thought he had no right to claim, they also refuted his claim to a hereditary witch linage and the manner in which he claimed to have been initiated as a witch. Their battle to discredit Sanders had little effect however, except to emphasize the Gardnerians mis-trust of others outside of their own tradition, for Sanders succeeded in forming an equally strong and influential tradition, the Alexandrian Tradition. Eleanor however did gain some ground that year when she was chosen to replace Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, as an honorary member of the Oxford University Liberal Club.
Also in 1966 Eleanor purchased a cottage in the village of Blindcrake, near Cockermouth, Cumbria, the county in northern England she had grown to love while working through the war years. This she had renovated for use as her home in the country where she could take a break from the pace and pressures of life living in London. She also started a new coven there, which soon caught the attention of the local news media:
New Brooms For Old
(Newspaper Article in Prediction – Monthly Miscellany November 1, 1966)
Mrs. Eleanor Bone, one of our leading modern witches, is planning to form a coven in Cumberland. At present Mrs. Bone, with her husband, runs an old people’s home in London. But she has taken a cottage at Blindcrake, near Cockermouth, and is now busy modernizing it before moving in.
She says that even before they thought of moving to Cumberland, she had a number of letters from people in the area expressing interest in the craft.
“I think people in the country” she added, “are fare more sympathetic to the craft than city people.”
In the Glasgow Herald however, Alastair Phillips thinks Mrs. Bone will not find things easy in Cumberland, which, he says, is already full of witches and warlocks. “She will doubtless find her cantrips severely tested by the rivalry of many experienced, if less well-known, witches and adherents, who will be less easily overcome or convinced than the idle and decadent dilettantes of the London suburbs”.
One might, I think, reassure walkers who climb the Great Gable or stride along Striding Edge, that they need not fear meeting any air-borne witches or warlocks. Modern witches do not fly, not even on vacuum cleaners!
As time moved on through the 1960’s Eleanor found herself being called upon to speak more and more about the Craft. She was also considered an authority on curses and spells, and during a trip to the United States was asked to participate in a US television chat show with another curse authority, the eccentric Sybil Leek. Both being strong willed and outspoken women, after an exchange of dry witty insults, Eleanor was asked to turn Sybil into a toad, at which she replied: “Why should I improve on nature.”
In 1968 Eleanor went on a pilgrimage to Tunis where she visited the grave of Gerald B. Gardner. While there she learned from the Chaplin that the Tunisian Government would shortly be turning the cemetery into a public park. He explained that if she wished to disinter his remains and move them to another location, that this could be arranged. Through donations made by members of the Craft, Gardner’s remains were later laid to rest in a more fitting place close to the ancient city of Carthage, once a prominent religious centre where they worshiped the Moon goddess Tanit and the Sun god Baal, the equivalent of the Phoenician goddess Astarte. Cults associated with the Greek goddesses Demeter and Persephone and the Roman goddess Juno were also worshiped there. While Eleanor arranged all this in his honour, she never made mention of it again publicly.
Sadly after almost 40 years, Gardner’s grave had been left untended, although undisturbed and unmarked, through time it had gradually settled and subsided unevenly into the ground and become overgrown with weeds and strewn with rubble. However, in 2007 a meeting took place between Patricia Crowther and Larry Jones, a member of the Craft from Washington State, U.S.A. Larry at the time was working in North Africa, and Patricia took the opportunity to charge Larry with finding his grave. Taking a short break from his work to visit Tunis, he managed to track down the location of the grave and in the short time available to him, arranged for the ground to be cleared and the gravestone re-erected. A new plaque was then added on top of the gravestone.
In 2007, a new plaque was added on top of Gardner’s grave that reads in the words of Patricia Crowther:
Gerald Brosseau Gardner
13th June 1884 - 12th February 1964
Author Archaeologist Artist
Father of Modern Wica
Beloved of the Great Goddess
After years of living within the hustle and bustle of London, in 1972 Eleanor and Bill decided to move back to the peace and quite of Cumbria full-time. This time they bought a small nursing home in Alston, which at 1000 feet above sea level is one of the highest market village settlements in England. It is also very remote and situated in a landscape designated as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” From there Eleanor also continued to run her coven at Cockermouth, just a short 50 mile car drive away across the scenic North Pennines.
At its peak Alston was once a thriving lead-mining area and home to about a 7,000 people, but today its population has dropped to less than 1,200. Sadly just a few years after moving into their new nursing home, they were forced to close it down due to financial mismanagement. Effectively made bankrupt and without other funds they were appointed a council house in the next village Garrigill, situated just a few miles away from where the nursing home had been located. Toward the end of the 1970’s and unable to maintain her regular trips to Cockermouth, her coven also became inactive.
Alston Village and Garrigill Village.
Perhaps due to the stress of the sudden move into poorer circumstances, Eleanor and Bill later became estranged, but continued to live together in the council house until he passed away on the 24th of August 1984. Eleanor had Bill’s remains cremated and on the 30th of August 1984, privately buried his ashes in the public cemetery at Garrigill. She performed a ritual service herself, but without permission from the council, and so no official records exist of where exactly she buried him.
While her coven in Cockermouth had become inactive, Eleanor had not given up her position as a High Priestess of the Gardnerian tradition, and instead took on a role as an Elder spokeswoman for the Craft speaking out in its defense. Shortly after the death of her husband in 1984 she was asked to give another interview on Witchcraft. This was later published in a Newcastle newspaper. After it appeared she became so inundated with correspondence from people wishing to know more, she decided to start teaching again and formed a new coven from her home in Garrigill. This lasted for more than a decade before it disbanded as more and more people left the area for better work opportunities.
Eleanor’s final years appear to have been lonely ones, her coven had disbanded and she had lost touch with most of the London Wicca community. Aside from her devoted son John who visited regularly, she had one friend who lived a few houses down the road, an elderly lady with whom she did crossword puzzles and exchanged crime novels from the library. Occasionally some of her neighbours would pop in and cook a meal for her, and the local council housing inspector dropped by once a week to bring her what little essential shopping she could afford. Sadly her son John passed away on the 29th September 1999. His remains were also cremated and Eleanor kept his ashes in urn at her home.
In the summer of 2001 Eleanor gave a final interview for the then annual “Occulture Festival” held in Brighton. In a live telephone link-up from her home in Garrigill, she spoke about the origins of modern Witchcraft and discussed some little known facts about the New Forest coven (see Dafo quoted above). In her closing comments she reminded people that when she had first practiced the Craft, it had still been illegal, and since then we had come along way in gaining acceptance, she was proud that Wicca was finally taking its place beside other world religions. The interview finished with a standing ovation.
Later that year in August 2001, already frail in health, Eleanor stated she would soon be “called back to the Old Gods”, and so made arrangements to wrap up her affairs. Just a month later at the Autumn Equinox, her health took a turn for the worse and her dedicated carer who visited each day found she had passed away in her sleep on the 21st of September 2001.
Sadly Eleanor died penniless and all her belongings were sold to cover her basic funeral expenses, but this did not include a grave marker, and so she was buried in an unmarked grave at the back of the Garrigill public cemetery. The ashes of her devoted son John were also buried with her. Despite all her efforts over the years to debunk and dispel the many myths and disillusionments about witchcraft, the age-old sigma of being a Witch still prevailed, for apparently the local council decided they did not want a so-called Witch buried in a prominent place in their public cemetery.
Throughout her many years as a spokesperson for the Gardnerian Tradition and Wicca in general, Eleanor was always unhesitating when answering bigots and outside critics of the Craft, and was particularly disdainful of those in the Craft she felt degraded their positions by taking unjustified titles to boost their own self egos. Weather she approved or not is uncertain, but toward the end of her life she was given her own title as the “Matriarch of British Witchcraft”. The origin of the title is unknown, but there can be little doubt that she enjoyed a special regard within the Pagan community and today her name commands the respect of most all Pagans and Witches.
At Samhain in 2014, Sophia Boann, a Gardnerian High Priestess and an initiatory descendant from Eleanor Bone established the “Eleanor Bone Memorial Fund” with an expressed wish to raise monies for the purchase of a new headstone for her unmarked grave in Garrigill public cemetery. A dedicated committee was then formed to manage the fund consisting of: Sophia Boann (as Chair), Vivianne & Chris Crowley (both initiatory descendants), Melissa Harrington (an initiatory descendant) with her husband Rufus Harrington, Philip Heselton (Gerald Gardner’s biographer) and Ronald Hutton (Professor of History at Bristol University and Britain’s leading authority on Paganism and Wicca/Witchcraft).
The response from the Pagan/Wicca/Witchcraft community was overwhelming, and within a very short time after the appeal was sent out, £2,700 had been raised from donations that flooded in from all corners of the world. The funds raised were more than sufficient to cover insurance, upkeep and future fees and charges for the grave.
With the funding in place and together with Eleanor Bone’s granddaughter Sheena (daughter of her son John), a gravestone was chosen and a local stonemason commissioned to work on the inscription/dedication. The inscription not only honours Eleanor’s name, but includes the epitaph words she herself had used when dedicating Gerald Gardner’s grave in Tunisia: “To meet, to know, to remember and to love again” (information kindly provided by Patricia Crowther). The inscription also includes the names of her late husband Arthur W, Bone and son John M. P. C. Posner, whose ashes were buried with her. (Note, while the exact burial site of her husbands ashes is still unknown, it is thought they were buried somewhere nearby in the same cemetery, and so fitting his name be added here to commemorate him).
Eleanor’s new gravestone close to the entrance of Garrigill cemetery.
As far as is known Eleanor’s new gravestone is the first gravestone in Great Britain to be inscribed with a Pentacle (Donna Gardner’s gravestone, wife of Gerald B. Gardner, which the design was based on, is located on the Isle of Man, which is not part of Great Britain).
The tree-lined avenue entrance to Garrigill public cemetery where Eleanor’s new grave and headstone is situated just off to the right.
On Saturday the 12th of September 2015, on a cold, wet and windy day, Pagans, Wiccans and Witches gathered together at 13.00pm in the Town Hall in nearby Alston to celebrate the legacy left behind by Eleanor Ray Bone. They then relocated to the Garrigill public cemetery a short distance away where Eleanor’s the new gravestone and resting place was appropriately dressed for the occasion.
The headstone prepared as an altar for the ritual to consecrate the ground and dedicate the memorial to Eleanor.
When all had gathered again at the cemetery, a circle was formed around the grave and the ritual service of dedication began. Four representatives from different lines of the Gardnerian Wicca tradition then called in the “Gods and Mighty Ones of the four directions” and asked them to guard her resting place. Rufus and Melissa Harrington then ritually consecrated the grave with incense, salt and water.
Rufus & Melissa Harrington consecrating the grave with incense, salt and water.
Time was then allowed for messages and devotions. Unable to attend herself, Ashley Mortimer from the Doreen Valiente Foundation then read out a message on behalf of Patricia Crowther to her fellow High Priestess and long time friend, which reads:
“Greetings to everyone on this important occasion. It is good to know that a headstone for Ray’s grave has been purchased by the Pagan community and is being erected today. As a High Priestess Ray ran a coven for many years and worked hard in her defence of the “Craft of The Wise”, by her interviews on radio, television and the “Fourth Estate”. And we must not forget that when the graveyard where Gerald’s body was situated was due to be turned into a park it was Ray who organised the proceedings, went to Tunis and had his remains transferred to a cemetery in that city.
Although we kept in touch by the phone, we last met in July 1982, when we were staying in the Lake District and Ray came over to see us, accompanied by her dog. We had a good few hours catching up on old times and discussing the then Pagan scene, it was a most enjoyable afternoon for all of us.
It is indeed gratifying to know that modern Pagans are remembering Ray in this way and that both the Craft and Paganism are going from strength to strength. And I am sure that Ray is aware of the ceremony for her which is taking place today.
Ashley Mortimer reads out a message from Patricia Crowther.
Sophia Boann (founder and chair of the Eleanor Bone Memorial Fund) then read out the words that Eleanor herself had used during the ritual she performed at Gerald B. Gardner’s grave in Tunis, and which she had repeated for her own husband Bill. Next Eleanor Bone’s granddaughter Sheena recited the poem “Elegy for a Dead Witch” by Doreen Valiente, after which the service was concluded by dismissing and thanking the “Gods and Mighty Ones” for attending and closing the circle.
Sheena, granddaughter of Eleanor Bone, together with Rufus & Melissa Harrington and Sophia Boann - Group photo of all attendee’s.
The Triumph of the Moon - Ronald Hutton
The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-paganism - By Shelley Rabinovitch
The Witch Book - The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism - By Raymond Buckland
“As a Matron and as a Witch”, an interview with Eleanor in a UK magazine called Tit-Bit’s, week ending 6th June 1964.
“Witches In Britain”, an article in the Weekend Telegraph – Number 35, 21st May 1965
An obituary by Jonathan Tapsell at: http://www.witchvox.com/passages/eleanorbone.html
Books by Philip Heselton author and biographer of Gerald Gardner “WitchFather”.
Ashley Mortimer for the personal message from Patricia Crowther
Personal communication with Sophia Boann (founder and chair of the Eleanor Bone Memorial Fund).
First published on the 10th October 2007 © George Knowles - up-dated 12th December 2015.
Best wishes and Blessed Be
This article is about Josephine Baker and her family, "The Rainbow Tribe". For other uses, see Rainbow Tribe. For the first female Director of Public Health, see Sara Josephine Baker.
Josephine Baker (born Freda Josephine McDonald, naturalised French Joséphine Baker; 3 June 1906 – 12 April 1975) was an American-born French entertainer, activist and French Resistance agent. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France. During her early career she was renowned as a dancer, and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her performance in the revue Un vent de folie in 1927 caused a sensation in Paris. Her costume, consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas, became her most iconic image and a symbol of the Jazz Age and the 1920s.
Baker was celebrated by artists and intellectuals of the era, who variously dubbed her the “Black Venus”, the "Black Pearl", the "Bronze Venus", and the "Creole Goddess". Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a French national after her marriage to French industrialist Jean Lion in 1937. She raised her children in France. "I have two loves, my country and Paris." the artist once said, and sang: «J'ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris».
Baker was the first African-American to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics, directed by Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant.
Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and is noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968 she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King, following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. After thinking it over, Baker declined the offer out of concern for the welfare of her children.
She was also known for aiding the French Resistance during World War II. After the war, she was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military, and was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by General Charles de Gaulle.
Baker was born as Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri.
Her mother, Carrie, was adopted in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1886 by Richard and Elvira McDonald, both of whom were former slaves of African and Native American descent. Josephine Baker's estate identifies vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson as her natural father despite evidence to the contrary. Baker's foster son Jean-Claude Baker wrote a biography, published in 1993, titled Josephine: The Hungry Heart. Jean-Claude Baker did an exhaustive amount of research into the life of Josephine Baker, including the identity of her biological father. In the book, he discusses at length the circumstances surrounding Josephine Baker's birth:
The records of the city of St. Louis tell an almost unbelievable story. They show that (Josephine Baker's mother) Carrie McDonald ... was admitted to the (exclusively white) Female Hospital on May 3, 1906, diagnosed as pregnant. She was discharged on June 17, her baby, Freda J. McDonald having been born two weeks earlier. Why six weeks in the hospital? Especially for a black woman (of that time) who would customarily have had her baby at home with the help of a midwife? Obviously, there had been complications with the pregnancy, but Carrie's chart reveals no details. The father was identified (on the birth certificate) simply as "Edw"... I think Josephine's father was white – so did Josephine, so did her family ... people in St. Louis say that (Baker's mother) had worked for a German family (around the time she became pregnant). He's the one who must have got her into that hospital and paid to keep her there all those weeks. Also, her baby's birth was registered by the head of the hospital at a time when most black births were not. I have unraveled many mysteries associated with Josephine Baker, but the most painful mystery of her life, the mystery of her father's identity, I could not solve. The secret died with Carrie, who refused to the end to talk about it. She let people think Eddie Carson was the father, and Carson played along, (but) Josephine knew better.
Carrie McDonald and Eddie Carson had a song-and-dance act, playing wherever they could get work. When Josephine was about a year old they began to carry her onstage occasionally during their finale. She was further exposed to show business at an early age because her childhood neighborhood was home to many vaudeville theaters that doubled as movie houses. These venues included the Jazzland, Booker T. Washington, and Comet Theatres.
Josephine lived her early life at 212 Targee Street (known by some St. Louis residents as Johnson Street) in the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood of St. Louis, a racially mixed low-income neighborhood near Union Station, consisting mainly of rooming houses, brothels and apartments with no indoor plumbing. Josephine was always poorly dressed and hungry as a child, and developed street smarts playing in the railroad yards of Union Station. She had little formal education, and attended Lincoln Elementary School only through the fifth grade.
Josephine's mother married a kind but perpetually unemployed man, Arthur Martin, with whom she had a son, Arthur, and two more daughters, Marguerite and Willie. She took in laundry to wash to make ends meet, and at eight years old, Josephine began working as a live-in domestic for white families in St. Louis. One woman abused her, burning Josephine's hands when the young girl put too much soap in the laundry. By age 12, she had dropped out of school.[unreliable source?]
At 13, she worked as a waitress at the Old Chauffeur's Club at 3133 Pine Street. She also lived as a street child in the slums of St. Louis, sleeping in cardboard shelters, scavenging for food in garbage cans, making a living with street-corner dancing. It was at the Old Chauffeur's Club where Josephine met Willie Wells and married him the same year. However, the marriage lasted less than a year. Following her divorce from Wells, she found work with a street performance group called the Jones Family Band.
In Baker's teen years she struggled to have a healthy relationship with her mother, Carrie McDonald, who did not want Josephine to become an entertainer, and scolded her for not tending to Baker's second husband, Willie Baker, whom she had married in 1921 at age 15. Although she left Willie Baker when her vaudeville troupe was booked into a New York City venue and divorced him in 1925, it was during this time she began to see significant career success, and she continued to use his last name professionally for the rest of her life.
Though Baker traveled, then returned with gifts and money for her mother and younger half-sister, the turmoil with her mother pushed her to make a trip to France.
Baker's consistent badgering of a show manager in her hometown led to her being recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show. At the age of 15, she headed to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, performing at the Plantation Club, Florence Mills’ old stomping ground, and in the chorus lines of the groundbreaking and hugely successful Broadway revues Shuffle Along (1921) with Adelaide Hall and The Chocolate Dandies (1924).
Baker performed as the last dancer on the end of the chorus line, where her act was to perform in a comic manner, as if she were unable to remember the dance, until the encore, at which point she would perform it not only correctly but with additional complexity. A term of the time describes this part of the cast as “The Pony.” Baker was billed at the time as "the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville".
Her career began with blackface comedy at local clubs; this was the "entertainment" of which her mother had disapproved; however, these performances landed Baker an opportunity to tour in Paris, which would become the place she called home until her final days.
Paris and rise to fame
Baker sailed to Paris for a new venture, and opened in La Revue Nègre on 2 October 1925, aged 19, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
In a 1974 interview with The Guardian, Baker explained that she obtained her first big break in the bustling city. "No, I didn't get my first break on Broadway. I was only in the chorus in 'Shuffle Along' and 'Chocolate Dandies'. I became famous first in France in the twenties. I just couldn't stand America and I was one of the first coloured Americans to move to Paris. Oh yes, Bricktop was there as well. Me and her were the only two, and we had a marvellous time. Of course, everyone who was anyone knew Bricky. And they got to know Miss Baker as well."
In Paris, she became an instant success for her erotic dancing, and for appearing practically nude onstage. After a successful tour of Europe, she broke her contract and returned to France to star at the Folies Bergère, setting the standard for her future acts.
Baker performed the "Danse Sauvage" wearing a costume consisting of a skirt made of a string of artificial bananas. Her success coincided (1925) with the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs, which gave birth to the term "Art Deco", and also with a renewal of interest in non-Western forms of art, including African. Baker represented one aspect of this fashion. In later shows in Paris, she was often accompanied on stage by her pet cheetah, "Chiquita", who was adorned with a diamond collar. The cheetah frequently escaped into the orchestra pit, where it terrorized the musicians, adding another element of excitement to the show.
After a while, Baker was the most successful American entertainer working in France. Ernest Hemingway called her "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw." The author spent hours talking with her in Paris bars. Picasso drew paintings depicting her alluring beauty. Jean Cocteau became friendly with her and helped vault her to international stardom.
Baker starred in three films which found success only in Europe: the silent film Siren of the Tropics (1927), Zouzou (1934) and Princesse Tam Tam (1935). She starred in Fausse Alerte in 1940.
At this time she scored her most successful song, "J'ai deux amours" (1931). At the start of her career in France, Baker met a Sicilian former stonemason who passed himself off as a count, who persuaded her to let him manage her. Giuseppe Pepito Abatino was not only Baker's management, but her lover as well. The two could not marry because Baker was still married to her second husband, Willie Baker.
Under the management of Abatino, Baker's stage and public persona, as well as her singing voice, were transformed. In 1934, she took the lead in a revival of Jacques Offenbach's opera La créole, which premiered in December of that year for a six-month run at the Théâtre Marigny on the Champs-Élysées of Paris. In preparation for her performances, she went through months of training with a vocal coach. In the words of Shirley Bassey, who has cited Baker as her primary influence, "... she went from a 'petite danseuse sauvage' with a decent voice to 'la grande diva magnifique' ... I swear in all my life I have never seen, and probably never shall see again, such a spectacular singer and performer." Despite her popularity in France, Baker never attained the equivalent reputation in America. Her star turn in a 1936 revival of Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway generated less than impressive box office numbers, and later in the run, she was replaced by Gypsy Rose Lee.Time magazine referred to her as a "Negro wench ... whose dancing and singing might be topped anywhere outside of Paris", while other critics said her voice was "too thin" and "dwarf-like" to fill the Winter Garden Theatre. She returned to Europe heartbroken. This contributed to Baker's becoming a legal citizen of France and giving up her American citizenship.
Baker returned to Paris in 1937, married the French industrialist Jean Lion, and became a French citizen. They were married in the French town of Crèvecœur-le-Grand, in a wedding presided over by the mayor, Jammy Schmidt.
Work during World War II
In September 1939, when France declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland, Baker was recruited by the Deuxième Bureau, French military intelligence, as an "honorable correspondent". Baker collected what information she could about German troop locations from officials she met at parties. She specialized in gatherings at embassies and ministries, charming people as she had always done, while gathering information. Her café-society fame enabled her to rub shoulders with those in the know, from high-ranking Japanese officials to Italian bureaucrats, and to report back what she heard. She attended parties and gathered information at the Italian embassy without raising suspicion.:182–269
When the Germans invaded France, Baker left Paris and went to the Château des Milandes, her home in the Dordogne département in the south of France. She housed people who were eager to help the Free French effort led by Charles de Gaulle and supplied them with visas. As an entertainer, Baker had an excuse for moving around Europe, visiting neutral nations such as Portugal, as well as some in South America. She carried information for transmission to England, about airfields, harbors, and German troop concentrations in the West of France. Notes were written in invisible ink on Baker's sheet music.:232–269
Later in 1941, she and her entourage went to the French colonies in North Africa. The stated reason was Baker's health (since she was recovering from another case of pneumonia) but the real reason was to continue helping the Resistance. From a base in Morocco, she made tours of Spain. She pinned notes with the information she gathered inside her underwear (counting on her celebrity to avoid a strip search). She met the Pasha of Marrakech, whose support helped her through a miscarriage (the last of several). After the miscarriage, she developed an infection so severe it required a hysterectomy. The infection spread and she developed peritonitis and then septicemia. After her recovery (which she continued to fall in and out of), she started touring to entertain British, French, and American soldiers in North Africa. The Free French had no organized entertainment network for their troops, so Baker and her entourage managed for the most part on their own. They allowed no civilians and charged no admission.
In Cairo, Egypt's King Farouk asked her to sing; she refused because Egypt had not recognized Free France and remained neutral. However, she offered to sing in Cairo at a celebration of honor for the ties between Free France and Egypt, and asked Farouk to preside, a subtle indication of which side his officially neutral country leaned toward.
After the war, Baker received the Croix de guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance. She was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by General Charles de Gaulle.
Baker's last marriage, to French composer and conductor Jo Bouillon, ended around the time Baker opted to adopt her 11th child. After the separation, Baker's chateau in France was foreclosed and she had to be physically removed from the property.
In 1949, a reinvented Baker returned in triumph to the Folies Bergere. Bolstered by recognition of her wartime heroics, Baker the performer assumed a new gravitas, unafraid to take on serious music or subject matter. The engagement was a rousing success, and reestablished Baker as one of Paris' preeminent entertainers. In 1951 Baker was invited back to the United States for a nightclub engagement in Miami. After winning a public battle over desegregating the club's audience, Baker followed up her sold-out run at the club with a national tour. Rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences accompanied her everywhere, climaxed by a parade in front of 100,000 people in Harlem in honor of her new title: NAACP's "Woman of the Year". Her future looked bright, with six months of bookings and promises of many more to come.
An incident at the Stork Club interrupted and overturned her plans. Baker criticized the club's unwritten policy of discouraging black patrons, then scolded columnist Walter Winchell, an old ally, for not rising to her defense. Winchell responded swiftly with a series of harsh public rebukes, including accusations of Communist sympathies (a serious charge at the time). The ensuing publicity resulted in the termination of Baker's work visa, forcing her to cancel all her engagements and return to France. It was almost a decade before U.S. officials allowed her back into the country.
In January 1966, Fidel Castro invited Baker to perform at the Teatro Musical de La Habana in Havana, Cuba, at the 7th anniversary celebrations of his revolution. Her spectacular show in April broke attendance records. In 1968, Baker visited Yugoslavia and made appearances in Belgrade and in Skopje. In her later career, Baker faced financial troubles. She commented, "Nobody wants me, they've forgotten me"; but family members encouraged her to continue performing. In 1973 she performed at Carnegie Hall to a standing ovation.
The following year, she appeared in a Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium, and then at the Monacan Red Cross Gala, celebrating her 50 years in French show business. Advancing years and exhaustion began to take their toll; she sometimes had trouble remembering lyrics, and her speeches between songs tended to ramble. She still continued to captivate audiences of all ages.
Civil rights activism
Although based in France, Baker supported the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s. When she arrived in New York with her husband Jo, they were refused reservations at 36 hotels because of racial discrimination. She was so upset by this treatment that she wrote articles about the segregation in the United States. She also began traveling into the South. She gave a talk at Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee, on "France, North Africa And The Equality Of The Races In France".
She refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States, although she was offered ,000 by a Miami club. (The club eventually met her demands). Her insistence on mixed audiences helped to integrate live entertainment shows in Las Vegas, Nevada. After this incident, she began receiving threatening phone calls from people claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan but said publicly that she was not afraid of them.
In 1951, Baker made charges of racism against Sherman Billingsley's Stork Club in Manhattan, where she had been refused service. Actress Grace Kelly, who was at the club at the time, rushed over to Baker, took her by the arm and stormed out with her entire party, vowing never to return (although she returned on 3 January 1956 with Prince Rainier of Monaco). The two women became close friends after the incident.
When Baker was near bankruptcy, Kelly offered her a villa and financial assistance (Kelly by then was princess consort of Rainier III of Monaco). (However, during his work on the Stork Club book, author and New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal was contacted by Jean-Claude Baker, one of Baker's sons. Having read a Blumenthal-written story about Leonard Bernstein's FBI file, he indicated that he had read his mother's FBI file and, using comparison of the file to the tapes, said he thought the Stork Club incident was overblown.))
Baker worked with the NAACP. Her reputation as a crusader grew to such an extent that the NAACP had Sunday, 20 May 1951 declared "Josephine Baker Day". She was presented with life membership with the NAACP by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Ralph Bunche. The honor she was paid spurred her to further her crusading efforts with the "Save Willie McGee" rally after he was convicted of the 1948 beating death of a furniture shop owner in Trenton, New Jersey. As the decorated war hero who was bolstered by the racial equality she experienced in Europe, Baker became increasingly regarded as controversial; some black people even began to shun her, fearing that her outspokenness and racy reputation from her earlier years would hurt the cause.
In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Baker was the only official female speaker. While wearing her Free French uniform emblazoned with her medal of the Légion d'honneur, she introduced the "Negro Women for Civil Rights."Rosa Parks and Daisy Bates were among those she acknowledged, and both gave brief speeches. Not everyone involved wanted Baker present at the March; some thought her time overseas had made her a woman of France, one who was disconnected from the Civil Rights issues going on in America. In her powerful speech, one of the things Baker notably said was:
I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, 'cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world ...
After King's assassination, his widow Coretta Scott King approached Baker in the Netherlands to ask if she would take her husband's place as leader of the Civil Rights Movement. After many days of thinking it over, Baker declined, saying her children were "too young to lose their mother".
Josephine Baker was bisexual. Her first marriage was to American Pullman porter Willie Wells when she was only 13 years old. The marriage was reportedly very unhappy and the couple divorced a short time later. Another short-lived marriage followed to Willie Baker in 1921; she retained Baker's last name because her career began taking off during that time, and it was the name by which she became best known. While she had four marriages to men, Jean-Claude Baker writes that Josephine also had several relationships with women.
During her time in the Harlem Renaissance arts community, one of her relationships was with Blues singer Clara Smith. In 1925 she began an extramarital relationship with the Belgian novelist Georges Simenon. In 1937, Baker married Frenchman Jean Lion. She and Lion separated in 1940. Lion died in 1957 of Spanish influenza. She married French composer and conductor Jo Bouillon in 1947, and their union also ended in divorce but lasted 14 years. She was later involved for a time with the artist Robert Brady, but they never married.
During Baker's work with the Civil Rights Movement, she began adopting children, forming a family she often referred to as "The Rainbow Tribe". Baker wanted to prove that "children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers." She often took the children with her cross-country, and when they were at Château des Milandes, she arranged tours so visitors could walk the grounds and see how natural and happy the children in "The Rainbow Tribe" were. Her estate featured hotels, a farm, rides, and the children singing and dancing for the audience. She'd charge admission for visitors to enter and partake in the activities, which included watching the children play. Baker used her children as metaphors: living examples of what humanity should look like, and her diverse children were used in a sort of attack against racism. She created dramatic backstories for them, picking with clear intent in mind: at one point she wanted and planned to get a Jewish baby, but settled for a French one instead. She also raised them as different religions to further her model for the world, taking two children from Algeria and raising one Muslim and the other Catholic. One member of the Tribe, Jean-Claude Baker, said:
She wanted a doll.
Another, Akio who was adopted from Japan, said
She was a great artist, and she was our mother. Mothers make mistakes. Nobody's perfect.
Baker raised two daughters, French-born Marianne and Moroccan-born Stellina, and 10 sons, Korean-born Jeannot (or Janot), Japanese-born Akio, Colombian-born Luis, Finnish-born Jari (now Jarry), French-born Jean-Claude and Noël, Israeli-born Moïse, Algerian-born Brahim, Ivorian-born Koffi, and Venezuelan-born Mara. For some time, Baker lived with her children and an enormous staff in the château in Dordogne, France, with her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon.
Later years and death
In her later years, Baker converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1968, Baker lost her castle owing to unpaid debts; afterwards Princess Grace offered her an apartment in Roquebrune, near Monaco.
Baker was back on stage at the Olympia in Paris in 1968, in Belgrade in 1973, at Carnegie Hall in 1973, at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1974, and at the Gala du Cirque in Paris in 1974. On 8 April 1975, Baker starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris, Joséphine à Bobino 1975, celebrating her 50 years in show business. The revue, financed notably by Prince Rainier, Princess Grace, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, opened to rave reviews. Demand for seating was such that fold-out chairs had to be added to accommodate spectators. The opening night audience included Sophia Loren, Mick Jagger, Shirley Bassey, Diana Ross, and Liza Minnelli.
Four days later, Baker was found lying peacefully in her bed surrounded by newspapers with glowing reviews of her performance. She was in a coma after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She was taken to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where she died, aged 68, on 12 April 1975.
She received a full Roman Catholic funeral that was held at L'Église de la Madeleine. The only American-born woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Baker's funeral was the occasion of a huge procession. After a family service at Saint-Charles Church in Monte Carlo, Baker was interred at Monaco's Cimetière de Monaco.
Place Joséphine Baker (48°50′29″N 2°19′26″E / 48.84135°N 2.32375°E / 48.84135; 2.32375 (place Joséphine Baker)) in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris was named in her honor. She has also been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and on 29 March 1995, into the Hall of Famous Missourians.
In 2015 she was inducted into the Legacy Walk in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The Piscine Joséphine Baker is a swimming pool along the banks of the Seine in Paris named after her.
Writing in the on-line BBC magazine in late 2014, Darren Royston, historical dance teacher at RADA credited Baker with being the Beyoncé of her day, and bringing the Charleston to Britain. Two of Baker's sons, Jean-Claude and Jarry (Jari), grew up to go into business together, running the restaurant Chez Josephine on Theatre Row, 42nd Street, New York City. It celebrates Baker's life and works.
Château des Milandes, a castle near Sarlat in the Dordogne, was Baker's home where she raised her twelve children. It is open to the public and displays her stage outfits including her banana skirt (of which there are apparently several). It also displays many family photographs and documents as well as her Legion of Honour medal. Most rooms are open for the public to walk through including bedrooms with the cots where her children slept, a huge kitchen, and a dining room where she often entertained large groups. The bathrooms were designed in art deco style but most rooms retained the French chateau style.
Baker continued to influence celebrities more than a century after her birth. In a 2003 interview with USA Today, Angelina Jolie cited Baker as "a model for the multiracial, mulitnational family she was beginning to create through adoption". Beyoncé performed Baker's banana dance at the Fashion Rocks concert at Radio City Music Hall in September 2006.
Writing on the 110 anniversary of her birth, Vogue described how her 1926 "danse sauvage" in her famous banana skirt "brilliantly manipulated the white male imagination" and "radically redefined notions of race and gender through style and performance in a way that continues to echo throughout fashion and music today, from Prada to Beyoncé."
On 3 June 2017, the 111th anniversary of her birth, Google released an animated Google Doodle, which consists of a slideshow chronicling her life and achievements.
- Baker appears in her role as a member of the French Resistance in Johannes Mario Simmel's 1960 novel, Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein (C'est pas toujours du caviar).
- A character loosely based on Baker is featured in an episode of Hogan's Heroes titled "Is General Hammerschlag Burning?", which originally aired on 18 November 1967. The character Kumasa (played by Barbara McNair) is a chanteuse based in Paris. She later reveals herself to be Carol Dukes, a high-school classmate of Sergeant James Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon), on whom she had a secret crush.
- The Italian-Belgian francophone singer composer Salvatore Adamo pays tribute to Baker with the song "Noël Sur Les Milandes" (album Petit Bonheur – EMI 1970).
- Diana Ross portrayed Baker in both her Tony Award-winning Broadway and television show An Evening with Diana Ross. When the show was made into an NBC television special entitled The Big Event: An Evening with Diana Ross, Ross again portrayed Baker.
- A German submariner mimics Baker's Danse banane in the 1981 film Das Boot.
- In 1986, Helen Gelzer portrayed Baker on the London stage for a limited run in the musical Josephine – "a musical version of the life and times of Josephine Baker" with book, lyrics and music by Michael Wild. The show was produced by Baker's longtime friend Jack Hocket in conjunction with Premier Box-Office, and the musical director was Paul Maguire. Gelzer also recorded a studio cast album titled Josephine.
- In 1991, Baker's life story, The Josephine Baker Story, was broadcast on HBO. Lynn Whitfield portrayed Baker, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special – becoming the first Black actress to win the award in this category.
- Artist Hassan Musa depicted Baker in a 1994 series of paintings called Who needs Bananas?
- In the 1997 animated musical film Anastasia, Baker appears with her cheetah during the musical number "Paris Holds the Key (to Your Heart)".
- In 2002, played by Karine Plantadit in Frida.
- A character based on Baker (topless, wearing the famous "banana skirt") appears in the opening sequence of the 2003 animated film The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville).
- The 2004 erotic novel Scandalous by British author Angela Campion uses Baker as its heroine and is inspired by Baker's sexual exploits and later adventures in the French Resistance. In the novel, Baker, working with a fictional black Canadian lover named Drummer Thompson, foils a plot by French fascists in 1936 Paris.
- Her influence upon and assistance with the careers of husband and wife dancers Carmen De Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder are discussed and illustrated in rare footage in the 2005 Linda Atkinson/Nick Doob documentary, Carmen and Geoffrey.
- Beyoncé has portrayed Baker on various occasions. During the 2006 Fashion Rocks show, Knowles performed "Dejá Vu" in a revised version of the Danse banane costume. In Knowles's video for "Naughty Girl", she is seen dancing in a huge champagne glass à La Baker. In I Am ... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas, Beyonce lists Baker as an influence of a section of her live show.
- In 2006, Jérôme Savary produced a musical, A La Recherche de Josephine – New Orleans for Ever (Looking for Josephine), starring Nicolle Rochelle. The story revolved around the history of jazz and Baker's career.
- In 2010, Keri Hilson portrayed Baker in her single "Pretty Girl Rock".
- In 2011, Sonia Rolland portrayed Baker in the film Midnight in Paris.
- Baker was heavily featured in the 2012 book Josephine's Incredible Shoe & The Blackpearls by Peggi Eve Anderson-Randolph.
- In July 2012, Cheryl Howard opened in The Sensational Josephine Baker, written and performed by Howard and directed by Ian Streicher at the Beckett Theatre of Theatre Row on 42nd Street in New York City, just a few doors away from Chez Josephine.
- In July 2013, Cush Jumbo's debut play Josephine and I premiered at the Bush Theatre, London. It was re-produced in New York City at The Public Theater's Joe's Pub from 27 February to 5 April 2015.
- In June 2016, Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play starring Tymisha Harris as Josephine Baker premiered at the 2016 San Diego Fringe Festival. The show has since played across North America and had a limited off-Broadway run in January–February 2018 at SoHo Playhouse in New York City.
- In February 2017, Tiffany Daniels portrayed Baker in the Timeless television episode "The Lost Generation".
- In late February 2017, a new play about Baker's later years, The Last Night of Josephine Baker by playwright Vincent Victoria, opened in Houston, Texas, starring Erica Young.
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- The Josephine Baker collection, 1926–2001 at Stanford University Libraries
- Atwood, Kathryn J., & Sarah Olson. Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press, 2011. ISBN 9781556529610
- Baker, J.C., & Chris Chase (1993). Josephine: The Hungry Heart. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679409157
- Baker, Jean-Claude, & Chris Chase (1995). Josephine: The Josephine Baker Story. Adams Media Corp. ISBN 1-55850-472-9
- Baker, Josephine, & Jo Bouillon (1995). Josephine. Marlowe & Co. ISBN 1-56924-978-4
- Bonini, Emmanuel (2000). La veritable Josephine Baker. Paris: Pigmalean Gerard Watelet. ISBN 2-85704-616-2
- Guterl, Matthew, Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2014. ISBN 9780674047556
- Hammond O'Connor, Patrick (1988). Josephine Baker. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-02441-8
- Haney, Lynn (1996). Naked at the Feast: A Biography of Josephine Baker. Robson Book Ltd. ISBN 0-86051-965-1
- Jules-Rosette, Bennetta (2007). Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07412-2
- Jules-Rosette, Bennetta (2006). Josephine Baker: Image and Icon. Reedy Press. ISBN 1-933370-02-5
- Kraut, Anthea, "Between Primitivism and Diaspora: The Dance Performances of Josephine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Katherine Dunham", Theatre Journal 55 (2003): 433–50.
- Mackrell, Judith. Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation. 2013. ISBN 978-0-330-52952-5
- Mahon, Elizabeth Kerri (2011). Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women. Perigee Trade. ISBN 0-399-53645-0
- Rose, Phyllis (1991). Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in Her Time. Vintage. ISBN 0-679-73133-4
- Schroeder, Alan (1989). Ragtime Tumpie. Little, Brown; an award-winning children's picture book about Baker's childhood in St. Louis and her dream of becoming a dancer.
- Schroeder, Alan (1990). Josephine Baker. Chelsea House. ISBN 0-7910-1116-X, a young-adult biography.
- Theile, Merlind. "Adopting the World: Josephine Baker's Rainbow Tribe" Spiegel Online International, 2 October 2009.
- Wood, Ean (2002). The Josephine Baker Story. Sanctuary Publishing; ISBN 1-86074-394-3