Shirley Temple, child star turned U.S. Ambassador, died this week, at age 85. She burst onto our screens, curls galore, at just three years old, in the 1932 parody series Baby Burlesks. The youngest actor ever to win an Oscar (albeit a special children’s one), when she was six, Shirley became one of the top-grossing performers during the Depression. “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be alright,” President Roosevelt once declared.
Shirley’s mother, who enrolled her in dance classes around the time of her debut, was behind her adorable daughter every step of the way. Nicknamed “Curly Top,” for her famous hair, Shirley left the house each day sporting 56 curls that mom had painstakingly created. Although the child star made millions, she later discovered that half of her income went to her parents and much of the rest went to other family members and staff.
As Shirley reached her twenties, in 1949, she moved away from show business and into politics. She was a U.S. delegate in the United Nations General Assembly from 1969 to 1970, and became Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 and later to Czechoslovakia. When Shirley met her second husband, Charles Black, in 1950, she said it was “love at first sight.” They had two children and were together until his death in 2005.
Shirley Temple will remain a national icon for generations to come. She was the quintessential child star, but continued to perform throughout her life, even as she took on the roles of a wife, mother, and public servant working overseas. Make sure to put a ‘Shirley Temple’ mocktail on your Valentine’s Day menu, in her honor.