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Women Spies in History

Women have often served as spies during times of war. They were often successful and unsuspected, especially if society assumed that women's proper role was in the domestic, not public, sphere.
  1. Women in Wars and the Mi...
  2. Criminals and Other Noto...
  3. Women Spies - Civil War

Female Spies for the Union
Pauline Cushman, Sarah Emma Edmonds, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Van Lew, Mary Edwards Walker, Mary Elizabeth Bowser and more: here are some of the many women who spied during the American Civil War, helping the cause of the Union and the North with their information.

Female Spies of the Confederacy
Belle Boyd, Antonia Forc, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Nancy Hart, Laura Ratcliffe, Loreta Janeta Velazquez and more: here are some women who spied during the American Civil War, passing information to the Confederacy. Some were captured and imprisoned, some escaped detection.

Female Spies in World War I and World War II
Women spies in World War I and World War II: female undercover work in World War I and World War II is largely unacknowledged.

Tokyo Rose Conviction: Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino
Convicted of treason for propaganda broadcasts during World War II (only the 7th American ever convicted of treason), she was later pardoned amidst a public campaign to exonerate her. POWs working with her in Japan during the war tell the story of her subtle undermining of the Japanese efforts.

Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker, exotic dancer and entertainer, was also a spy. During World War II, she gathered intelligence for the French underground.

Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn, after a short career as a spy for England, became the first woman to make her living as a writer.

Mata Hari
Mata Hari, one of history's most infamous spies, was executed in 1917 by the French for spying for the Germans. Was she guilty as charged?

Ethel Rosenberg
Ethel Rosenberg was tried and convicted, with her husband Julius, of conspiracy to commit espionage. Was she guilty or was she a victim of Cold War anti-communist hysteria?

Harriet Tubman
A four-part in-depth biography of Harriet Tubman, highlighting the four phases of her life: her life in slavery, her years as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, her service in the U.S. Civil War as a nurse, scout and spy, and her later years working for reform and telling her story.

A Nurse's Perspective on the Civil War
Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Civil War nurse, soldier (disguised as Frank Thompson), and spy. In this excerpt from her memoir, she recounts her experiences at the Battle of Bull Run (also known as First Manassas), July 21, 1861, the events leading up to the battle and her exploits after the battle, returning to Washington, DC.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow: Online Archive
Confederate spy "Wild Rose," key to Beauregard's winning of the Battle of Bull Run. Collection includes many of her letters.

Miss Jenny
A spy in the American Revolution, not much is known about this French woman, whose deposition taken by German mercenery Baron Ottendorf for the British Army. She had been sent to General Washington's camp, where she'd been questioned and punished as a spy -- but then allowed to return to the British where she reported on Washington's plan to attack New York City.

Mata Hari
Mata Hari - her name has become synonymous with a kind of female spy who uses her sexuality to get access to information. This page highlights her World War I exploits.

Melita Norwood: A Secret Life
The BBC News tells the story of an elderly woman, exposed in the 1990s as "the spy of the century" who betrayed British secrets to the Soviets beginning soon after Joseph Stalin took power. Why? Not for financial reward, which she refused.

Violette Szabo
A rich and deep site on Violette Szabo, a British woman with half French heritage who volunteered during World War II. She parachuted into France twice, and, after she lost a gun battle with the Germans, she was sent to Ravensbrück where, in 1945, she was executed.

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