The blue Shirley Temple pitcher used to rest next to the purple African Violets on the Singer sewing machine in my Grandmother’s bedroom. As Grandma watered her violets, I asked her about the girl on the pitcher and Grandma explained that Shirley Temple Black “had been an actress and is now a great leader”. Today, as I lean back on my chair, arms behind my head, the pitcher is in my view reminding me of both amazing women.
My Grandmother was born in the 19th century soon after the birth of George Eastman’s first roll of film. She was a toddler when the escalator was invented, and was surely fascinated the first time her mother sewed a zipper into a newly knitted sweater. With the turn of the century she was riding bicycles, listening to the radio, and hoping to drive one of those new-fangled automobiles. By the roaring twenties she was busy traveling to Brazil with her husband, and back to the USA to have her children.
On April 23, 1928, when Shirley Temple was born, my Grandmother was raising her three young children and had little time for the movies. As Grandma baked her way through the depression, a little girl with golden curls danced her way into America’s heart. While the United States watched the second world war unfold, Shirley Temple sang about hope. My Grandmother worked hard through those years, but when Saturday arrived, she scraped the nickles and dimes together so that her children could go to the matinee.
Shirley Temple Black had a long career as a diplomat and a United States Ambassador, setting an example for generations of women. But I will always remember her as the little girl on my Grandmother’s pretty blue pitcher.