women of paris

Raised in Paris, Wrote in China, Died in the USA: the life of a lady-in-waiting

Princess Der Ling had an interesting life. She received a western education and studied dance in Paris with Isadora Duncan before serving as the first lady-in-waiting to the Empress Dowager Cixi. Besides the usual lady-in-waiting duties, Der Ling also translated for Cixi when she had foreign visitors because she spoke English as well as French.

Der Ling published a memoir about her time in the Forbidden City, after the 1911 Revolution overthrew the Qing. She continued writing through the tumult of the 1920s and 1930s. In total, Der Ling published seven books before she moved to Berkley, California in 1942 to teach Chinese at the University of California there. Der Ling died after being hit by a grocery delivery truck at the intersection of Bancroft and Telegraph.

Josephine Baker was a famous African American dancer, singer, and actress born in 1906 St. Louis, Missouri. Sadly she was not appreciated in the US, so she went to Paris in the 1920s, where her amazing talent, charm, and charisma were such a smashing success that she became a movie star there. Oh, and she had a pet cheetah named Chiquita, who often escaped the stage to terrorize the musicians.

Even more badass - during WWII, she served as a spy to the French military intelligence, collecting info about German troop locations at all the fancy parties she went to. She pinned those notes, written in invisible ink on her sheet music, inside her underwear. How cool is that.

She also contributed to the Civil Rights movement, and refused to perform for segregated audiences during her tours in the US.

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