10 Famous Mothers


Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker adopted 12 children from around the world.
Josephine Baker adopted 12 children from around the world.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Josephine Baker's popularity began to wane in the 1950s from its red-hot heights 20 years prior, she launched herself into a new venture. In 1954, at an appearance in Copenhagen, the dancer and aging sex symbol explained her desire to adopt "five little boys" from around the world to symbolize race-blind brotherhood [source: Theile]. Ten years later at her home in France, nicknamed "The world capital of brotherhood," that initial vision had multiplied to 10 boys and two girls from various countries: Japan, Finland, Columbia, France, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Venezuela and Morocco [source: Eburne]. Baker referred to her ethnically eclectic brood as the "Rainbow Tribe."

While Baker continued to tour and hobnob with famous friends, her husband, Jo Bouillon, oversaw the children's upbringing at the couple's sprawling chateau. But despite what sounds like a fairytale setup, the 12 kids slept together in a single attic room, and were regularly put on display for paying tourists [source: Theile]. By 1975, when Josephine Baker died, her husband had long since left her. She had also lost the chateau in 1969 due to the astronomical cost of keeping up her lavish lifestyle and rearing a dozen boys and girls -- all of whom scattered around the globe to various boarding schools or to live with Bouillon after their home was taken away. And in a somber testament to her questionable decisions as an adoptive mother, such as putting them on display for tourists, only one of her children has since returned to the "Rainbow Tribe's" original stomping grounds at the French chateau, where Josephine Baker's grand maternal experiment quickly soured.