An out-of-wedlock child, Eartha Kitt was born in the cotton fields of South Carolina. Kitt’s mother was a sharecropper of African-American and Cherokee Native American descent. Her father’s identity is unknown. Given away by her mother, she arrived in Harlem at age nine. At 15, she quit high school to work in a Brooklyn factory. As a teenager, Kitt lived in friends’ homes and in the subways. However, by the 1950s, she had sung and danced her way out of poverty and into the spotlight: performing with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe on a European tour, soloing at a Paris nightclub and becoming the toast of the Continent. Orson Welles called her “the most exciting girl in the world”. She also spoke out on hard issues. She took over the role of Catwoman for the third and final season of the television series Batman (1966), replacing Julie Newmar. Eartha Kitt died of colon cancer in her home in Weston, Connecticut, on Christmas Day 2008.
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