A Woman to Know: Amy Elizabeth Thorpe

Wars are not won by respectable methods. — Amy Elizabeth Thorpe

(image via Atlas Obscura)


Jennifer Lawrence is going to play her in a movie, so throughout the entirety of this newsletter, just imagine a blonde bombshell like Jennifer Lawrence attending Axis Powers parties in disguise, seducing Nazi officers and smuggling secrets across enemy lines.

As an M16 agent, Thorpe (known as both "Amy" and "Betty" to her friends, but known under a myriad of aliases to her enemy lovers) traveled back and forth between Britain and Vichy France. She perfected "honey trap" espionage, encouraging her Axis paramours to divulge battle plans and government affairs. After all this pillow talk, Thorpe would relay the German codes to her counterparts in British intelligence, fueling a massive codebreaking operation that ultimately helped the Allies win World War II.

Years later, after she married one of her former informants and retired to the French countryside, biographers would ask about her years as a spy -- and her supposedly "unladylike" techniques. "Ashamed? Not in the least. My superiors told me that the results of my work saved thousands of British and American lives," she once said. "It involved me in situations from which 'respectable' women draw back."

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