A Woman to Know: Virginia Hall

She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies, and we must find and destroy her. Gestapo Wanted poster, 1942

(Illustration by Jeff Bass)

The Nazis knew her as "the woman with the limp." The Allies knew her as "the heartbeat of the French Renaissance," a woman from Baltimore who could speak multiple languages, hack enemy communications and hike the snowy Pyrenees, prosthetic leg and all.

But the State Department had originally rejected Virginia Hall for her dream job before the war — she lost her lower leg left in a hunting accident, and the Foreign Service had a policy against hiring amputees. She didn't give up, and she didn't miss out on her spy dreams. Instead, she traveled to Europe and immersed herself in the world of espionage, doing whatever she could to help the movement— studying languages and Nazi code talk, driving ambulances, embedding with resistance members — until she was named the first female special ops agent in World War II.

How's that for EXTREME COMPETENCE FOREIGN SERVICE HUH HOW'S THAT

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Thank you to William Carpenter for today's Woman to Know! Yes, we're related.