Celebrating cooking’s great international woman, Julia Child.
Sunday is International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate women, their achievements, and to draw attention to women’s equality. In the cooking field, perhaps no woman has been a greater or more long-standing figure of trail-blazing achievement than Julia Child. But how much do you know about her? Here are 7 facts about Julia Child you probably did not know.
Many people know her major career highlights. She shook off her staid upper-middle-class life in Pasadena, California to work in Asia for the O.S.S. during World War II. Not content to stay at home after the war, Julia graduated as the only woman in her culinary program in Paris. She taught cooking classes before eventually publishing the blockbuster Mastering the Art of French Cooking. From there, she became an author, a television cooking star when “tv chef” was a virtually nonexistent field, and an icon.
But here are 7 facts you should know about Julia Child.
1. Julia survived breast cancer.
After discovering a lump in her left breast in 1968, Julia underwent a radical mastectomy and spent 10 days in the hospital recovering afterward.
2. Her O.S.S. work was even more high-level than you thought.
Julia’s highest position withe the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to today’s C.I.A.) was Chief of the O.S.S. Registry. With her top secret security clearance, she knew every message going in and out of her station, and beyond. She also worked on a research project developing shark repellant — key because sharks would sometimes detonate undersea explosives meant for German U-boats.
3. She was a big supporter of Planned Parenthood.
In the early 1980s, she led fund-raising cooking lessons, and authored a nationwide pledge letter that read, “Few politicians will take the risk of publicly supporting either contraception or abortion—and who is ‘for abortion’ anyway? We are concerned with freedom of choice.”
4. For better or for worse.
The day before Julia’s wedding to Paul Child (an aesthete 10 years her senior — and several inches shorter than her 6’2″ frame), the two suffered injuries in a car accident. The casual Pennsylvania wedding took place nonetheless, bride and groom accessorized with bandages and stitches.
5. Julia was a true international woman.
In addition to her WWII work in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Julia lived in France, Norway, and Germany.
6. Call her Dr. Child.
Julia Child was awarded numerous accolades and honors in her lifetime, including the French Legion of Honor, an Emmy, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also received 10 honorary doctorates, from schools including Bates, Brown, Rutgers, and Harvard Universities. She was also the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame.
7. A French Chef to the end.
Still working at age 85, Julia taped a new show with chef Jacques Pepin — and toured to promote it and the accompanying book. Julia Child died in her sleep at home in California, two days before her 92nd birthday. Her last meal was French onion soup.
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https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-passionate-progressive-politics-of-julia-child; https://juliachildfoundation.org; https://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/13/dining/julia-child-the-french-chef-for-a-jello-nation-dies-at-91.html; https://www.britannica.com/biography/Julia-Child; https://www.latimes.com/food/la-081304child_lat-story.html