Shirley Temple Black died Monday, February 10, at home in Woodside, California.
She starred in 23 motion pictures beginning at age three and, from 1935 through 1939, was the most popular movie star in America.
Shirley Temple retired from the screen at 22 but embarked on a second career, one in which her image as “friend to everyone” would stand her in good stead: that of diplomat.
After marrying Charles Alden Black in 1950, Shirley Temple Black became a fundraiser for the Republican party, was appointed by Nixon as a delegate to the UN in 1969, was the US ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, was Ford’s chief of protocol in 1976 and 1977, and became Bush Sr.’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, where she was serving when Communism fell in Eastern Europe.
Shirley Temple Black had a breast removed in 1972 and, during a time when cancer was not a topic spoken of in “polite conversation,” she held a press conference in hospital to discuss it.
In the February 1973 issue of McCall’s Magazine, she urged women to check for breast lumps in an article titled “Don’t sit home and be afraid.” She was the first public figure to write about her experience with cancer in a mainstream women’s magazine, emphasizing her right to make her own decisions regarding what is done to her body and her choice to have a biopsy before embarking on any cancer treatment. Her statement, “The doctor can make the incision; I’ll make the decision,” was enormously empowering to women who, until then, had been largely passive parties in doctor-patient relationships.
Shirley Temple is number 18 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 Greatest Female American Screen Legends. She was 85.