A Woman to Know: Nancy Wake

A woman could get out of a lot of trouble that a man could not. — Nancy Wake

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

The Gestapo nicknamed her "The White Mouse" and put her at the very top of Germany's "Most Wanted" list. But even as she was dodging capture and blazing espionage trails, Nancy Wake was arming and training more than 7,000 soldiers to liberate France.

Before World War II broke out, Nancy had hosted elaborate dinner parties and boasted she could never travel without her Chanel lipstick. But in 1940, she signed up immediately to work with British intelligence. "I don't see why women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas," she explained in her biography.

She spent the next five years parachuting into Nazi territories and shepherding downed airmen to safety. She wooed German soldiers with her feminine wiles ("God, what a flirtatious little bastard I was," she told reporters) and communicated government secrets back to the Allies.

After the war, multiple governments awarded her honors and accolades for her heroics. But she didn't care much for medals; she sold them all within a couple decades, living off their profits until her death at 98. "I'll probably go to hell," she explained, "and they'd melt there anyway."

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