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Category: spies
  • The Nazis had a 5 million-franc bounty on the head of the spy known as the "White Mouse."

    In 1943, Nazi authorities were on the hunt for a spy they had nicknamed the "White Mouse" because of her ability to evade their capture, no matter what trap they set. The Gestapo had declared her their most wanted person, and placed a 5 million-franc bounty on her head. Their quarry was Nancy Wake, one of Britain's Special Operations Executive's most capable secret agents. Famous for her fearlessness, Wake would continue to evade her pursuers for the rest of the war, at one point even hurling herself from a train window to escape capture, and eventually become one of the Allies' most decorated servicewomen of World War II. Continue reading Continue reading

  • Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies of World War II but her incredible story is largely unknown today.

    The Nazis considered Virginia Hall the "most dangerous of all Allied spies," yet the story of the "Limping Lady" is largely unknown today. Hall spent nearly the entire war in France, first as a spy for Britain's newly formed Special Operations Executive (SOE) and later for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Special Operations Branch. Even her cumbersome wooden prosthetic leg, which she nicknamed Cuthbert, proved no obstacle to Hall's courage and determination to defeat the Nazis. While undercover in France, she proved exceptionally adept at eluding the Gestapo as she organized resistance groups, masterminded jailbreaks for captured agents, mapped drop zones, reported on German troop movements, set up safe houses, and rescued escaped POWs and downed Allied pilots. Even years after the war, however, she rarely talked about her extraordinary career; a reticence she likely developed during her years as a spy since, as she once observed, "Many of my friends were killed for talking too much." Continue reading Continue reading

  • With a one million franc bounty on her head, Witherington presided over the surrender of more than 18,000 German troops.

    On the night of September 22, 1943, a 29-year-old British Special Operations Executive agent parachuted into occupied France. It sounds like the beginning of a spy movie, but it’s actually the real-life story of Pearl Witherington, one of World War II’s little-known female heroes! Witherington led a network of thousands of French Maquis resistance fighters in battle against the Nazis, and even presided over the surrender of 18,000 German troops at the end of the war. Continue reading Continue reading

  • The 23-year-old secret agent hid her codes in knitting to avoid detection by the Nazis.

    In May 1944, a 23-year-old British secret agent named Phyllis Latour Doyle parachuted into occupied Normandy to gather intelligence on Nazi positions in preparation for D-Day. As an agent for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Doyle – who recently celebrated her 98th birthday – secretly relayed 135 coded messages to the British military before France's liberation in August. She took advantage of the fact that the Nazi occupiers and their French collaborators were generally less suspicious of women, using the knitting she carried as a way to hide her codes. For seventy years, Doyle's contributions to the war effort were largely unheralded, but she was finally given her due in 2014 when she was awarded France's highest honor, the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. Continue reading Continue reading

  • 15 Trailblazing Female Wartime Heroes Who Belong in the History Books

    women-in-wartime-blog-websiteOften, the popular image of women in wartime is worried wives, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters, pining at home for the men they love who are risking their lives on the battlefield. The reality, though, is much different! Women have always made significant contributions to war efforts -- both on the homefront and on the front lines. While women's contributions at home, especially during WWII, have become more widely known, the stories of their heroism on the battlefield are rarely told. In every war there have been women who dared to spy across enemy lines; treat wounded soldiers in the midst of the fighting; report from the front as journalists, and fight shoulder to shoulder with their male peers. And although we don't hear of them often, women also fought for an equally important cause: peace.

    In this blog post, we're sharing stories of remarkable women from the Hundred Years' War to World War II. These women were spies, resisters, rescuers, medics, journalists, soldiers, and peacemakers; they risked as much and acted as bravely as their more renowned male counterparts. While a few of these figures were famous in their own times, their stories have faded in the years since, and most were little known or disregarded, even as they committed remarkable acts of heroism. Today, we can finally give them their due -- and marvel at their incredible stories, which prove that truth is often far more exciting than fiction!

    If you'd like to learn more about any of the featured women or introduce them to children and teens, after each profile we've shared several reading recommendations for both children and adults, as well as other resources that celebrate these remarkable women.

    For more stories of inspiring women, check out the other two blog posts in our Mighty Girl Heroes blog series, Guardians of the Planet: 10 Women Environmentalists You Should Know and Those Who Dared to Discover: 15 Women Scientists You Should Know. Continue reading Continue reading

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