Shirley Temple: Cancer Trailblazer

Shirley Jane Temple Black, born 23 April 1928; died 10 February 2014

Shirley Jane Temple Black, born 23 April 1928; died 10 February 2014

Saturday afternoons. Old black and white movies. A golden-haired, ringleted and dimpled Shirley Temple singing and tap-dancing her way into our hearts in a little corner of my Irish childhood.  Not everyone shares my affection for the precocious child actress, but there is no denying that the woman she became did so much to open up a public discussion on breast cancer. In 1972 when she was diagnosed, breast cancer was a dreaded disease which involved mutilation, fear, shame and death. She made the decision to announce her mastectomy to the media, becoming one of the first prominent women to speak openly about breast cancer, and encouraging other women who required the surgery to follow her example without fear.