Happy birthday to Ms. Julia Child, born August 15, 1912.
Many know her as the first female chef to have a television show, who taught Americans how to make delicious, often French meals for four decades while publishing 18 books.
However, there is more to her story.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, she wanted to do what she could to help her country. She tried to join both the Naval W.A.V.E.S. (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and the Women’s Army Corps. She was rejected from both because at 6’2″, they said she was too tall.
Undeterred, like 4500 other American women, she signed up for the O.S.S. (Office of Stategic Services), the predecessor to today’s C.I.A.
At the time, the American military was having a big problem with shark attacks. Sometimes on Naval personnel, but the bigger challenge was their attacks on underwater explosive devices. The sharks would think they were food and set them off. The American Government had made 60 attempts at methods to dissuade the sharks from attacking.
Julia Child solved the problem, inventing a shark repellent that is still used to this day.
Perhaps even more impressive is the stand she took against McCarthyism in the 1950s. She held a history degree from Smith College, and she was watching with horror as Senator Joseph McCathy began his televised hearing accusing people in government and elsewhere of being communists with little to no supporting evidence.
She received a letter asking for her support in rooting out five ‘communist” instructors from Smith College. Her letter in rebuke contained words that most certainly got her in trouble with McCarthy and his cronies in 1953.
Her words stand strong nearly seven decades later as those that every American needs to hear and take to heart.
“This is the method of the totalitarian government, the nullification of all that the United States stands for.
In the blood-heat of pursuing the enemy, many people are forgetting what we are fighting for. We are fighting for our hard-won liberty and our freedom; for our Constitution and the due processes of our laws; and for the right to differ in ideas, religion and politics. I am convinced that in your zeal to fight against our enemies, you, too, have forgotten what you are fighting for. . . .
One of the purposes of Smith College, and the main reason why its alumnae support it, is that it is a free, democratic institution, privately endowed, and subject to no political pressures from any government or any party. . . . In this very dangerous period of our history, where, through fear and confusion, we are assailed continually by conflicting opinions and strong appeals to the emotions, it is imperative that our young people learn to sift truth from half-truth; demagoguery from democracy; totalitarianism in any form, from liberty. The duty of Smith College is, as I see it, to give her daughters the kind of education which will ensure that they will use their minds clearly and wisely, so that they will be able to conduct themselves as courageous and informed citizens of the United States.
I am sending to Smith College in this same mail, along with a copy of this letter, a check to duplicate my annual contribution to the Alumnae Fund. I am confident that our Trustees and our President know what they are doing. They are only too well aware of the dangers of totalitarianism, as it is always the great institutions of learning that are attacked first in any police state. For the colleges harbor the ‘dangerous’ people, the people who know how to think, whose minds are free.”
For this letter, Ms. Child and her husband who was a career diplomat, were investigated and harassed by the F.B.I. for may years. Neither ever backed down.
By the way, she didn’t publish her first cookbook until she was 49.
Happy birthday to Julia Child, an amazing chef and patriot.
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