She might be our cooking idol, but there’s more to Julia Child than perfect beef bourguignon and cherry clafoutis. Here, ten surprising, touching and just plain sweet facts that prove she was pretty much Wonder Woman, both in and out of the kitchen. 

RELATED: 25 Classic Julia Child Recipes to Try at Home

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1. She was 6’2” Tall

Surprise! Julia Child was champion of the Smith College basketball team. Later, when she and her husband, Paul, bought a home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, they installed taller-than-average countertops (smart lady).

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2. She Was a Spy in World War II

Child began as a research assistant at the Office of Strategic Services (basically the CIA 1.0) and worked her way up the ladder, meeting her future husband—who was working as an officer—in the process. Talk about a real-life superhero.

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3. She Helped Develop Shark Repellent For the Navy

While she was serving her country, sharks kept attacking naval officers. Not one to wait in the wings, Child casually teamed up with scientists to develop a fix. (And it worked…NBD.)

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4. She Sucked at Cooking Until She Was In Her Mid-30s

And by bad, we mean lived-off-frozen-TV-dinners bad. Thankfully, she elbowed her way into Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. After a string of mishaps—like an exploding duck and an oven fire—she became the best cook in history (because she pretty much has superpowers).

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5. It Took Her Nine Years to Publish Her First Cookbook

She didn’t become our cooking idol overnight, people. Thank goodness she held strong through nine whole years of research, rewrites and rejections.

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6. The First Thing She Cooked On TV Was An Omelet

During her first TV appearance on WGBH in Boston, Child brilliantly promoted Mastering the Art of French Cooking by whipping up eggs on screen. It was a huge hit, and she landed a contract with the channel shortly after.

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7. She Survived Breast Cancer

We have much more to thank her for than the best French onion soup recipe in the universe. After she survived a mastectomy, she became vocal about her operation to remove the stigma for other women.

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8. She Has a Rose Named After Her

Appropriately, it’s the color of melted butter. It’s known for its sweet licorice fragrance and constantly blooming flowers.

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9. She Used Hundreds of Pounds of Butter on the Set of Her TV Show

According to PBS, she cooked with 753 pounds of butter while filming Baking with Julia. Not that anyone was counting.

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