Child actress. Diplomat. And member of the Junior League of Palo Alto•Mid-Peninsula. In life, unlike her many movie roles, Shirley Temple played against type.

Born in 1928, in Santa Monica, California, Shirley Temple appeared in her first Hollywood feature film at 6, and by 1940 had 43 films under her belt. And she was a superstar. In the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called her “Little Miss Miracle” for raising the public’s morale during times of economic hardship. He added, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” Temple’s song-and-dance routine to the tune “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in 1934’s Bright Eyes earned her a special Academy Award for “Outstanding Personality of 1934.”

Long after her movie career faded, however, Shirley Temple Black (her second marriage to California businessman Charles Alden Black lasted until his death in 2005) turned to public service, where she also became a star. She ran for Congress in 1967 but lost. From 1969 to 1970 she served as U.S. delegate to the United Nations and was appointed ambassador to Ghana in 1974. Two years later, she became the chief of protocol of the United States, retaining the position until 1977. In 1988, she achieved the rank of honorary Foreign Service officer of the United States. From 1989 to 1992 she served yet another public service role, as ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

Eleanor Roosevelt with a young Shirley Temple Black in 1930
Eleanor Roosevelt with a young Shirley Temple Black in 1930

In December of 1998, Shirley Temple Black’s lifetime accomplishments were celebrated in the Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. In 2005 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

And, in case you haven’t seen one of her movies, she is No. 18 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female American screen legends of all time, making her the highest-ranked living person on the list.