August 15th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
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Today would have been Julia Child's 101st birthday, and Eatocracy is celebrating her legacy. Here are some lesser-known facts about the beloved TV chef and cookbook author.

- At 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Julia was no stranger to standing out. But her height wasn’t always welcomed. Child moved from California to Washington D.C. at the start of World War II to join the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). She’d previously been rejected for active duty by the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service and the Women’s Army Corps. The OSS eventually became the CIA.

- Her maiden name is McWilliams.

- Julia had high hopes of distinguishing herself in college basketball, but the administration of Smith College, her alma mater, changed the game rules (they did away with the jump ball) to ensure she didn't receive an unfair advantage due to her height. "I was not good at the rest of the game," said Child in her only authorized biography, "Appetite for Life" by Noel Riley Fitch.

– Julia was a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division of the OSS. While she never spent time in the field, she did have a high security clearance that allowed her to handle top secret documents.

- While with the OSS, she also worked with the Emergency Sea Rescue Equipment Section and even helped develop shark repellent that was crucial during WWII. Underwater bombs that were meant for German U-boats would attract curious sharks that would sometimes cause premature explosions when they bumped into them.

- With the OSS, Julia was stationed in Sri Lanka and China. While she was stationed overseas she met Paul Child, also an OSS officer. He is credited with teaching her to appreciate French cuisine.

- 573 pounds of butter were used on her show “Baking with Julia.”

- Julia wrote short stories in college and advertising copy for a furniture company after graduation.

- Child once attributed her longevity to "red meat and gin." She died two days shy of her 92nd birthday.

- Child was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame.

The CNN Library also contributed to this report.

Note: This was originally published on Child's 100th birthday in 2012

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Filed under: Celebrity Chefs • Culture • History • Julia Child


soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Private personal training

    Julia was 6 feet, 2 inches tall. I did not know that. She had such a great career. She was a role model for all women.

    January 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  2. devinher

    I lived with Julia in 1994 and she was always generous and kind to me. In fact, I sat at that table pretty much exactly where the camera is for this photo during our "interview."

    I was a college kid, in a bad living situation, and Julia's husband was no longer able to live in the home so she wanted someone else in the house. It was an amazing deal – free rent and the top floor of the house.

    At the end of the interview, she told me I could come stay with her and asked if I had any questions. I said I'd love to borrow a pot or a pan because I had none. She looked at me, leaned back, and gestured for me to look around the kitchen, saying, "Clearly, that would be impossible." I thought she was crazy – there were more pots and pans than I'd ever seen in my life, many hanging from walls.

    Now of course, I realize that what she meant was that her pots and pans were pretty great and she wasn't going to give them to some kid to destroy. At the time I just shrugged it off and moved in.

    A couple days later, she called me from down stairs and asked is she could come up. When I opened the door, she was there with her assistant and a box filled with pots and pans. Julia Child had gone to someone's garage sale and bought up all of their absolutely horrible kitchen stuff. To me, they were gold.

    Julia was always generous and kind to me. I still remember hugging her goodbye, and having to stand on my toes to do so. I still have a couple of those pots and pans to remind me of her. Very nice memories. Happy 101st Julia!

    August 16, 2013 at 1:41 am | Reply
    • D Hiers

      What a great story. I envy you, and know that you will cherish your memories for the rest of your life. You were able to show what a wonderful, generous and loving person Ms. Child was. A truly heart-warming story. Thank you.
      PD's cousin

      August 16, 2013 at 6:48 am | Reply
  3. Michallangelo

    I have her signature!! For REALS!!!!!!!!!

    August 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Reply
  4. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    Child, please!

    August 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Reply
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