Today would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Though the legendary cook, author, and pop culture personality died in 2004, her delicious legacy lives on.
Happy Birthday! Photo by Arnold Newman/Getty Images
The non-vegans among us have many buttery reasons to admire Julia Child, but us feminists also have plenty to appreciate (and the non-vegan feminists among us are stuffing our faces with fromage right now in honor of her birthday). In an era when women were expected to forego careers and personal growth to dedicate their lives to their husbands and children, Child blazed her own trail through the often-bougie world of haute cuisine. She made cooking fun and accessible for women everywhere, and she was flat-out hilarious to boot.
Speaking of, check out this amazing Julia Child remix for a reminder of Child’s charms and the glory that is autotune.
Bring on the roasted potatoes!
Now, some take issue with calling Julia Child a feminist icon, but I am not one of those people. Even if she chose not to identify as a feminist, she stood up for feminist causes, collaborated with other women, broke new ground for female chefs, poopooed dieting, had a very egalitarian relationship with her husband, and was 6’2” and childless—a rebellion in its own right. Not only that, but according to her biographer, Child did identify as a feminist.
Julia always considered herself a feminist. Always. But not in a fundamentalist sort of way,” says biographer Bob Spitz, whose book will cap what is being called the JC100, a 100-day celebration of Child’s life. “When she got to the states and ate in restaurants, she would march into the kitchen and say, `How many women are in here?’ She would tell the great chefs, `You need more women here.’
Score one for Team Feminism!
However, the appeal of Julia Child wasn’t her feminist politics (though did you know that she was a Planned Parenthood supporter and was vehemently pro-choice?). It was the way she was able to be wholly herself, mistakes and all. She makes people—not just women, but everyone—feel like they can try things without the fear of failure that hangs over so much of what we do.
Don’t you get the feeling that if you were to have met Julia Child that she would have accepted you without pretense and invited you in for a delicious snack and one of her “reverse martinis”? If you answered no, take a look at this Valentine’s Day card she and her husband Paul sent out and then think again:
They wish you were there! Photo courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.
Celebrate the birthday of this iconic woman today by reading this profile of her in Ms. and this profile of her in Maclean’s. Then celebrate her birthday the way she’d want you to: With some tasty french food, a butter-filled piece of cake, and a cocktail to wash it down. Bon Appetit!