A Woman of No Importance
Where: The General Society Library
20 W. 44th St.
212-840-1840 Price: Members $30; $40 Non-Members
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The Spy Who Helped Win WWII
In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent command: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” This spy was Virginia Hall, a young socialite from Baltimore, who, after being rejected from the Foreign Service because of her gender and prosthetic leg, talked her way into the SOE, the WWII British spy organization dubbed Churchill’s “ministry of ungentlemanly warfare.” Hall, known as the “Madonna of the Resistance,” was one of the greatest spies in American and English history, yet her full story remains untold.
At a time when sending female secret agents into enemy territory was still strictly forbidden, Hall coordinated a network of spies to report on German troop movements, arranged equipment parachute drops for Resistance fighters, and recruited and trained guerrilla units to ambush enemy convoys and blow up bridges and railroads. Even as her face covered WANTED posters throughout Europe, she refused orders to evacuate. She finally escaped in a death-defying climb over of the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown, and her associates imprisoned or executed. But, she plunged back into the field with the American OSS secret service, directing partisan armies to back up the Allied forces landing at Normandy.
King George VI awarded her the OBE in 1943 and she received the Distinguished Service Cross from the US in 1946, the only American woman to receive this honor. Sonia Purnell will reveal the captivating story of a formidable, yet shockingly overlooked, heroine whose fierce persistence helped win a world war.
Thank you to our co-sponsors: St. George’s Society of New York; The Colonial Dames of America