25 Badass Female World War II Spies

Zoe Samuel

Image: Gibson Group

About This Article

World War II was an "all hands on deck" situation. No one could afford to let anyone just stand by while the Axis Powers gobbled up their neighbors. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced that women would be allowed to serve in non-combat roles, those with moxie signed up with Uncle Sam. In The United Kingdom, government ministers determined that it was impossible to win the war "by Marquess of Queensberry rules." And so, they established Special Operations Executive — or SOE — a spy organization more secretive than MI-6, and which, rather than recruiting boys like James Bond from Oxford and Cambridge, recruited convicted firebugs, burglars, murderers, and yes, women.

World War II was a turning point in history, where the conventions of modern warfare were established, and the tactics of war and post-war nation-building were codified. It also helped to redefine the place of women in the military, in intelligence work and in the government. Without the female spies of the OSS, SIS and SOE, the allies might not have won the war. Some of these women lost their lives behind enemy lines. Others turned the furtive whispers of the bored wives of German officers into intelligence reports. Still, others played the great puzzle game of cryptography against Japan and Germany, turning the tools of their spies against them. Many served, but few are remembered. Here are 25 of the badass female spies of World War II.

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