May 8, 2023




Using everything in their power to gain information, this group of women have completed some of the most daring missions in history. I’m your host Leah. I’m Phil And I’m Steve. Join us today as we explore the Sisterhood of Spies.

Of course, we all love spy stories. There’s just something about the intrigue of the hidden world of secret agents who risk life and limb by clandestinely garnering information from an evil enemy. Who doesn’t love a good James Bond film? But today we are going to learn about some real-life spies whose courage and strength outshine 007. Oh, and by the way, these spies are all women!

Mata Hari        Let’s begin with one that you may have heard of but might not know much about. And you probably don’t know her actual name. According to Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was born August 7, 1876 in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. She grew up in a wealthy family as her father was a prosperous hatter, however he fumbled the family’s fortune away in the Panic of 1893. In 1895 Margaretha married Rudolph MacLeod who was an officer in the Dutch Army. MacLeod accepted a posting in what is today Indonesia, but at the time were the Dutch East Indies. Margaretha followed him and lived on the islands of Sumatra and Java. It wasn’t a happy marriage. Their first child died. Upon returning to The Netherlands in 1906 Macleod filed for divorce from Margaretha and kept custody of their only surviving child, a daughter. 

Margaretha relocated to Paris where she hoped to earn enough money to regain custody of her daughter. She began to dance professionally in Paris cabarets under the name Lady MacLoud. However she soon changed her name to a phrase she had learned in the East Indies; a phrase which translated meant Bright Sunshine; the phrase Mata - Hari.

Mata Hari was tall, very attractive, and somewhat knowledgeable of East Asian dances. She was an instant success in Paris. Her scant costumes and her sultry dance moves created a sensation in the French capital. She had numerous personal admirers, many of which were military officers. Her popularity drew her to give performances throughout Europe including Berlin where she performed for Crown Prince Wilhelm the eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm, Germany’s king.  

When WW I began she returned home to The Netherlands which was officially neutral during the conflict. As a Dutch citizen she was able to cross international borders freely. While performing in The Hague she was approached by a German official who offered to pay her money to travel to France and collect information. However, upon her arrival in Paris, a French official offered to pay her to travel to German occupied Belgium and collect information about German troop movements. They specifically wanted her to play up to the Crown Prince and extract information from him. Evidently, she agreed to both offers. However, she never really provided much in the way of actual information to either side. 

Then it gets confusing. In November 1916 she traveled to England where she was picked up by police for questioning. During the interrogation she admitted that she was spying for the French. Then what was she doing in England? They were supposed to be on the same side! She was released but told to leave England immediately. She went to Madrid, Spain and met with the German Consul and offered to exchange French secrets for money. The Germans grew tired of the poor information she was providing, so they decided to get rid of her indirectly. The German official in Madrid sent a message to Berlin in code detailing the wonderfully helpful info they had obtained from Mata Hari. Only he sent the message in a code that he suspected the French had already broken. In other words, they were exposing her as a German spy to the French. Thus, when Mata Hari returned to Paris in February of 1917, she was arrested by French officials in her Champs Elysees (Chans E Lee Zee A) hotel room. 

That spring France suffered a series of battlefield setbacks. Military leaders needed a scapegoat, and they found the perfect one in Mata Hari. Officials blamed her espionage activities on Germany’s behalf for the death of up to 50,000 French soldiers, though there was no evidence to support that allegation. Her trial date was set for July 24, 1917. The trial received maximum publicity and probably is the cause of her involvement in the war being over sensationalized. At her trial Mata Hari maintained throughout that she had never been a German spy. She vehemently insisted that her sympathies were with the Allies and declared her passionate love of France, her adopted homeland. But the French prosecutors painted a picture of a loose woman with no morals who utilized her charms to take advantage of men for her own benefit regardless of the consequences. She was sentenced to death by firing squad which was carried out on October 15, 1917. She was 41 years old. Reportedly she blew kisses at her executioners and refused to wear a blindfold. 

Historians have by and large determined that Mata Hari was not the dangerous spy that she was made out to be. In the words of the American historians Norman Polmer and Thomas Allen she was "naïve and easily duped", a victim of men rather than a victimizer. Maybe she wasn’t entirely innocent, but she was not the master spy responsible for the deaths of 50,000 soldiers as has been claimed. and

Josephine Baker              I don’t know if either of you have heard of Josephine Baker. I’m reading a terrific book about her called “Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy” written by Damien Lewis. Most of the information here was summarized from this book that I highly recommend. 

Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri on June 3, 1906. Her mother Carrie was of mixed African American and Native American descent. It is uncertain who her father is. Josephine grew up in a very poor neighborhood in St. Louis. Sometimes she was living on the street in a cardboard shelter. She was poorly dressed, often hungry, and developed street smarts playing in the railyards of Union Station. For a time she found work as a housekeeper for a wealthy white family, but she was made to sleep in the basement with the dog. This was the beginning of her lifelong love of animals. 

She was married at age 13, divorced at 14, and married again at the age of 15. She found work with a street performance group called the Jones Family Band. When this group got an opportunity to perform in New York, she left her second husband for the bright lights of Broadway. For the next three years Josephine found work as a chorus girl and a dancer, mostly in Harlem theatres but sometimes in Broadway Vaudeville shows. Her specialty was playing the Comedy Girl, the last girl on the chorus line who tripped over her own feet and went all knock-kneed and cross-eyed, but all the while somehow managing to dance wonderfully to the beat and rhythm. The audience loved it.

In 1925 at age 19 Josephine was offered a starring role in La Revue Negre, a stage show which was going to be performed in Paris. She had heard that the French were more accepting of Black people in general and Black performers especially. She decided to take the offer. It was a good decision. To say that Josephine Baker took Paris by storm is putting it mildly. The city literally went wild for her. The American novelist Ernest Hemmingway who was living in Paris at the time wrote that Josephine Baker was the most sensational woman that anyone ever saw or would ever see. Pablo Picasso painted her several times in her various costumes. A French filmmaker gave her a starring role in one of his movies. Just one year after her arrival, Josephine Baker was reported to be the most photographed woman in the world!

Josephine was so popular in Paris that in 1930 she was invited to open the Tour de France. With the bicycles bedecked in flowers , Josephine cut the ribbon to start the race. After which she invited the Tour officials into her home for a celebratory glass of champagne. She had become so quintessentially French as she had taken the nation’s heart. 

With her fame came unfathomable fortune also. She bought an ancient home in Paris and a chateau in Southern France.  She filled the ancient home with all kinds of animals, both domestic and wild. Her favorite was a cheetah that she named Chiquita. She frequently performed on stage with Chiquita and the two of them were often seen strutting together down the Champs Elysees. She made one trip back to the United States in 1928, but when she was denied registration in the Manhattan Hotel where she planned to stay, she was crushed by the reality that the Jim Crow laws in the U.S. hadn’t changed. She got on the next boat and went back to France. 

In the late 20s and 30s she traveled and performed throughout Europe. In 1927 she was cheered wildly in Berlin. But in the coming years she would notice the sharp change in her German audiences as Nazism rose and took hold. By the mid-1930s her performances in Germany and Austria were met with protests. Newspaper articles decried the decadence of the Dancing Black Devil Woman. Amid the rising tide of turbulence in Europe, Josephine became a French citizen in 1937. 

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland. Two days later The U.K. and France declared war on Germany. Soon thereafter Josephine was contacted by a gentleman named Jacques Abtey who was the head of French counterintelligence. Abtey asked Josephine to continue entertaining and attending parties, and to see what kind of information that she might pick up. “No one will suspect a celebrity of your magnitude of ulterior motives,” he told her. Josephine was happy to oblige. 

Within the first month she had rubbed shoulders with German officials at a nightclub, became best friends with the Japanese ambassador’s wife, and attended several parties at the Italian embassy. Through all these connections she accumulated considerable amounts of valuable intelligence without raising any suspicion. Abtey was impressed with her work. During the winter of 1939 – 40 she volunteered to entertain French and British troops stationed on the Maginot Line along France’s border with Germany.

In May of 1940 the Germans invaded France by first going through The Netherlands, Belgium, and tiny Luxembourg. Within a matter of weeks they marched into Paris almost unopposed. Josephine, along with her menagerie of animals, fled the city just days ahead of the Nazis and went to her chateau that she had bought in the south of France. The Germans took complete control of Northern France and set up a puppet government, called the Vichy, to oversee the rest of the country. Vichy France was still unpleasant, but not quite as tightly gripped as the Nazi controlled north. 

Josephine allowed her chateau to be used as a base for those wanting to fight back against the occupiers. The French General Charles de Gaul had escaped to England, but was giving weekly radio broadcasts to encourage the Frenchmen to do whatever they could to disrupt the German occupation. The chateau soon became a place to stockpile small arms weapons, explosives, and radio equipment. 

Soon Jacques Abtey found his way to Josephine’s hideaway. “What you are doing here is great,” Abtey told her, “but what we really need is a way to get information out of France and back to England.” “What would you have me to do?” Josephine asked him. “Keep performing!” he told her. “As an entertainer, you have an excuse for moving around Europe and visiting neutral countries like Portugal,” he said. 

Together they worked out a plan in which Abtey and his team of spies would collect intelligence about airfields, harbors, and German troop concentrations in the West of France. Then Abtey would write the information on Josephine’s sheet music in invisible ink. Josephine would then schedule a tour to Morocco and then Portugal. Morocco, on the northwest coast of Africa just across the Mediterranean Sea, was a French colony at this time, and thus was under the control of the Vichy government. Transport by ship from Marseille to Morocco’s largest city Casablanca was still operating. From there it was easy to make a connection to Lisbon, Portugal which was still neutral and where England still maintained an embassy. (Fans of the great Humphry Bogart movie Casablanca understand what the atmosphere was like at this time.) 

The Portuguese were thrilled to have Josephine come and entertain, and gladly issued travel visas to her, but not to anyone else. Abtey had hoped to travel along posing as her music director. Thus, Josephine had to make the risky and daring trip by herself. Though neutral, Portugal was a very dangerous place in 1940-41. The Allies and the Axis powers had flooded Lisbon with agents and saboteurs. But as usual, Josephine charmed everyone she met. She quietly saw to it that the British consul in Lisbon was given a special pass to her final performance, a pass that included an invitation to meet with her in her dressing room at the end of the performance. When the consul arrived she said, “I’d like for you to have a special memento of my performance, I think you will find them to be especially enlightening,” she purred as she handed him the sheet music. 

While in Lisbon she continued rubbing shoulders with German and Italian officials. With her charm and copious amounts of champagne she was able to learn more intelligence from them. She would then write it down on notes and pin it to her underwear, trusting that her celebrity status would prevent her from a strip search. This information was also passed along to the British. After a few weeks she returned to Casablanca, but before the end of 1941 she would make at least one more trip back to Lisbon to bring more intelligence on her sheet music. Throughout the remainder of the war she continued to offer her services to the French Resistance and to Abtey’s counterintelligence secret organization. She also put on live performances for French, British, and American troops whenever possible. In August of 1944 she celebrated the liberation of Paris by re-opening her nightclub act in the city. For her bravery and heroism Josephine Baker was awarded the Resistance Medal by the French Committee of National Liberation, the Croix de Guerre by the French military, and was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by General Charles de Gaulle.

After the war, Josephine continued to entertain, but she also became a driving force in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1951 she was invited to perform in Miami, but refused until the venue agreed to desegregate the audience. Following this sold out performance, she went on a successful nationwide tour of the U.S. In 1963 she returned to the U.S. to participate in the March on Washington. She spoke at the same gathering where Martin Luther King gave his I Have A Dream speech. At that event she stated, “I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, 'cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world!” 

Josephine Baker continued performing up until her death. In April of 1975, to celebrate her 50th year in France, she starred in a retrospective review of her life’s work. The venue was sold out with numerous A list performers in attendance. Four days later she was found dead lying in her bed surrounded by newspapers filled with glowing reviews of her performance. She had a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 68. More than 20,000 mourners attended her funeral. She received full French Military honors. 

In Washington DC there is an interesting place called the Spy Museum. I have never been, but it looks fascinating. They have a whole wing dedicated to women spies. Much of the following comes from their website Some details have also been harvested from

Harriet Tubman

The woman we know as Harriet Tubman was born Araminta (Minty) Ross to enslaved parents sometime in 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was one of nine children. As she grew, she suffered severe punishment from various slave owners and also saw three of her siblings sold to other masters. One day a cruel master threw a heavy weight at a different slave, but the weight hit Harriet in the head instead. After this event she suffered dizzy spells, but also experienced visions which she interpreted as messages from God. 

In 1844 she married a freed Black man named John Tubman. Their union was complicated and short-lived due to the fact that she was still a slave. Soon after her marriage, she changed her name from Araminta to Harriet which was her mother’s name.  She may have believed that this change might aid her escape from slavery. 

In 1849 her owner died. Harriet knew that his wife would likely sell off the remaining slaves and divide her family. She was sent to work for a different family in a more rural part of Maryland. This area contained a large community of Quakers who were opposed to slavery. Harriet saw this as her opportunity to escape. Slipping away from her overseer’s home one night she made her way to the Quaker community where she was given a safe place to stay. After a few days she was put on the path to the Underground Railroad, a series of safe houses operated by freed Blacks and abolitionists stretching along the Choptank River through Delaware and into Pennsylvania which was a free state. She later wrote of reaching Pennsylvania, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

Over the next decade Harriet made no less than 13 visits back to Maryland to help members of her family and other slaves escape to freedom. When the Fugitive Slave Act was established, it made it more dangerous for escaped slaves to stay in the northern states. Harriet then made arrangements to help slaves escape to Canada. In these pre-war trips she led more than 70 slaves to their freedom and earned the nickname, Moses. In 1858 U.S. Senator William Seward sold Harriet a farm near Auburn, N.Y. Harriet moved her parents and several family members here. 

When the Civil War started in 1861, Harriet saw a Union Victory as being key to the emancipation of all slaves. She volunteered her services to the Union forces. In 1862, the Union Navy established a foothold in South Carolina near Beaufort and Port Royal. Harriet was assigned to General David Hunter at Port Royal. Her knowledge of covert travel and subterfuge among potential enemies was put to good use. Harriet scouted the area, drew maps, and gave stellar intelligence to the Union Army. Her information aided Colonel James Montgomery in capturing Jacksonville, Florida. 

In June of 1863 Harriet became the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. On the morning of June 2nd 1863 Montgomery and his troops conducted an assault on a collection of plantations along the Combahee River, Tubman served as a key adviser and accompanied the raid. She guided three steamboats carrying Union soldiers around Confederate mines and onto the shore near the plantations. The soldiers quickly set fire to the plantation buildings and seized thousands of dollars’ worth of food and supplies. The steamboats blew their whistles which signaled all the nearby slaves to come running toward the river. Tubman watched as those fleeing slavery stampeded toward the boats, describing a scene of chaos with women carrying still-steaming pots of rice, pigs squealing in bags slung over shoulders, and babies hanging around their parents' necks. She later exclaimed, "I never saw such a sight!" Over 750 slaves were freed in this raid. Most of the freed men joined the Union Army. 

For the next two years Harriet continued to operate as a spy for the Union as well as a nurse and cook. The Confederacy surrendered in 1865. After a few more months of volunteering her services, Harriet returned to her farm in Fleming N.Y. to care for her parents. 

In her later years Tubman became involved in the Women’s Suffrage movement. She also became very active in her church. She died in 1913 at the age of 91. On the 100th anniversary of her death, President Obama dedicated the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland. She is widely praised by leaders across the political spectrum. 

ODJ: KOREAN AGE                Something unique and unprecedented is happening on June first in South Korea. All South Korean citizens will get anywhere from one to two years younger! At least on official documentation they will.

You see, South Korea has always been different from the rest of the world in their traditional method of counting ages. Under that system babies are considered to be a year old at birth. It’s unknown how this started but there’s speculation that it may be accounting for the time spent in the womb and then rounding that up to a year. Then everyone turns another year old on New Year's Day on January 1st. So a baby born in December would officially turn two years old on January first in spite of being less than a month from birth. 

But it gets even more complicated, a separate system exists for calculating the age of men entering national service and the legal age to drink alcohol and smoke. In those cases, a person’s age is calculated from zero at birth and a year is added on New Year’s Day.

This very convoluted and increasingly unpopular tradition has attracted criticism from politicians that say it makes South Korea seem to be behind the times compared with other countries as well as putting a strain on the resources it takes to calculate someone’s official age. But in June of this year, 2023, all of the confusion should come to an end when laws stipulating the use of only the international method of counting ages take effect.

While some South Koreans will probably continue to use their “Korean age” in daily life, others are delighted to turn back the clock and get younger even if it’s only on paper.

Jeong Da-eun, a 29-year-old office worker, said she welcomed the change, since she always had to think twice when asked her age when overseas. “I remember foreigners looking at me with puzzlement because it took me so long to come back with an answer,” she said. “Who wouldn’t welcome getting a year or two younger?”


Virginia Hall           From we find a fascinating article about a female spy that you probably have never heard of. Her name is Virginia Hall. She was born in Baltimore to wealthy parents in April of 1906. Her education was Ivy League, completing studies at Radcliff, Barnard, and George Washington Universities. Her majors were French, Italian, German, and economics. She persuaded her parents to let her continue her schooling in Europe where she studied in France, Germany, and Austria. Upon completion of her impressive studies, she took a position as a clerk with the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland in 1931. The following year she transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. 

In 1933 Virginia was invited to go along with embassy staff on a hunting trip. While climbing through a fence she tripped and her gun discharged, striking her in the left leg. She was not able to receive immediate treatment and the wound developed gangrene. Near the point of death, her left leg was amputated below the knee. During her recovery she was fitted with a wooden leg. Ever the humorist, Virginia Hall named her prosthetic Cuthbert. 

Virginia had always dreamed of working in the Foreign Service, but when she applied a few years after the accident, she was informed that only the "able-bodied" need apply. It seems the State Department had some odd rule about hiring people with disabilities as diplomats. Not to be deterred, she tried to get her dad to talk to his buddy, President Roosevelt. That didn’t even help. She continued working as an embassy clerk in Venice until 1939.

Virginia was living in France when WW II started. She became an ambulance driver for the French Army. After Paris fell in June of 1940 she fled to Spain. While there she happened to meet a British intelligence officer who was impressed with her. He referred Virginia to England’s newly created Special Operations Executive or SOE. 

Hall was accepted into the SOE in April of 1941. She was one of the first two female agents sent into France. She was assigned to go to Lyon which at the time was still part of Vichy France and somewhat loosely regulated. Her cover was that of a reporter for the New York Post. This gave her license to interview people, gather information and file stories filled with details useful to military planners. Instead of her chic wardrobe she dressed down to remain inconspicuous and often used makeup, hats, and scarves to change her appearance. 

Virginia Hall was a pioneer as a WW II female secret agent. Though she had some training, she had to learn on her own the tricks of the trade such as arranging contacts, recommending who to bribe and where to hide, soothing the jagged nerves of agents on the run and supervising the distribution of wireless sets. She spent 13 months in France in 1941-42, organizing spy networks, running safehouses, and delivering important intelligence to the British government – all while staying one step ahead of the Gestapo, who called her "The Limping Lady."

The network of SOE agents she founded was nicknamed Heckler. One of her recruits was Germaine Guérin who was the owner of a prominent business in Lyon. Guerin made numerous safe houses available to Virginia and also passed along helpful bits of information that his employees picked up from German officers who were their customers. 

Hall had extraordinary intuition for avoiding danger. In October of 1941 she had a gut feeling about a meeting of SOE agents in Marseille and didn’t attend. The Vichy French police raided the meeting and arrested all the agents leaving Hall as one of the only agents in France. With her radio operator gone, Hall carefully collected intelligence and then hid the papers in her prosthetic leg. Upon visiting the American Consulate in Lyon she slipped off her leg and gave the valuable information to the ambassador who then forwarded them on to England in a diplomatic pouch. 

Another task Hall took on was helping British airmen who had been shot down or crashed in Europe to escape and return to England. Downed airmen who found their way to Lyon were told to go to the American Consulate and say they were a "friend of Olivier." "Olivier" was Hall and she, with the help of business-owner Guérin and other friends, hid, fed, and helped dozens of airmen escape France to neutral Spain and then back to England.

Hall learned that twelve of the agents arrested in Marseille were being held at a prison located in Bergerac. Virginia and her accomplice Gaby Bloch hatched a plan to help the prisoners escape. Bloch, who was the wife of one of the prisoners, visited the prison to bring food and other items to her husband. Hall managed to encase tools in tins of sardines which would enable the prisoners to fabricate a key to open their cells. She also assembled safe houses, vehicles, and helpers. On July 15, 1942, all the prisoners escaped. They managed to hide in the woods while the Vichy authorities conducted an extensive search, then they all made their way to Lyon. Within three weeks all the prisoners had been smuggled safely through Spain and back to England. After the war, the official historian of the SOE wrote that this escape was one of the most useful actions taken by the agency during the war. Most of the freed SOE agents later returned to France and became leaders of SOE networks. 

The Germans were furious about the escape. The Gestapo sent 500 agents into Vichy France to infiltrate the SOE networks and disrupt the Resistance. One of the networks was compromised by a Gestapo agent posing as a Roman Catholic Priest. He managed to learn Hall’s identity and location. 

Hall was tipped off when false intelligence was radioed to London in her name. London suspected the information was false and managed to notify her through the American Consulate in Lyon. Knowing that her life was in danger, Virginia Hall slipped out of Lyon on November 7, 1942. She made her way by train to a town in southern France near the Pyrenees Mountains on the border with Spain. From there a guide helped her to climb over a 7,500-foot mountain pass into Spain. It was an excruciating climb on her prosthetic leg. Once she arrived in Spain she was arrested, but the American Embassy in Madrid managed to secure her release. She worked for the SOE in Madrid for a few months and then returned to London in July of 1943. She begged the SOE officials to allow her to return to France, but they refused on the grounds that she had been compromised. They did award her as a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Virginia resigned from the SOE and then applied for employment with the American Office of Strategic Services or OSS which is the forerunner of the CIA. There she was trained in radio operations, and then on March 21, 1944 she was secreted by gunboat back to the Brittany coast of France. Her mission was to arm and train French Resistance groups so that they could aid in the Allied Invasion of Normandy which would come in June. She disguised herself as an old woman with gray hair and a limp. At one time she pretended to be a dairy farmer and even sold cheese to some German soldiers. 

After the Normandy landings Virginia continued to work behind enemy lines providing valuable information to the Allies concerning German troop movements and potential landing zones as well as supplying members of the French Resistance. Groups of the French Resistance were loosely organized in quasi military style. The male leaders of these groups often bristled at taking instructions from Virginia. But they were told by Allied command, “If you want the supplies, you better do what the lady says!” At the end of the war in September 1945 Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by President Truman. This was the only honor of this type given to a civilian woman during WW II. 

After the war, Hall joined the new CIA in 1947. She was one of the first women the agency hired. The CIA later acknowledged that Hall was discriminated against as her male peers were intimidated by her skill and intellect. Her experience and abilities were never properly utilized. Still, she provided valuable service to the agency during the Cold War years. She retired from the CIA in 1966 at the mandatory retirement age of 60. She and her husband Paul, another CIA agent purchased a farm in Maryland where they both lived out their lives She died in 1982.

In 1988 Virginia Hall’s name was added to the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame. In 2016 the CIA named a field training center after her. The CIA Museum gives five operatives individual sections in its catalog. One is Virginia Hall; the other four are men who went on to head the CIA.

Well, we have taken a pretty deep dive into these four women, but there are several others noted in the Spy Museum’s article that are definitely deserving of mention. 

Marlene Dietrich    You have probably heard of Marlene Dietrich, but you may not know much about her. She was born in Berlin in 1901 and grew up loving acting and playing the violin. Her first job was as a violinist for silent movies in a Berlin theater. In the 1920s she picked up small parts in Berlin’s burgeoning cinema industry. By the end of the decade Marlene Dietrich had become a well established star of stage and cinema in Berlin and Vienna. 

In 1930 her breakout role as Lola, a cabaret singer who brings about the downfall of a respectable school teacher in the movie Blue Angel, gained her international fame. The following year she was lured to Hollywood where Paramount Pictures offered her a huge contract. Throughout the 1930s Dietrich made several movies in Hollywood, earning an academy award nomination for her role in Morocco in which she co-starred with Gary Cooper. 

On a trip to London in 1937, Dietrich was approached by representatives of Nazi Germany with a lucrative offer to return to the Fatherland and make movies for Hitler. She refused and returned to the U.S. where she became a citizen in 1939 renouncing her German citizenship. She became an outspoken critic of Hitler and Nazi policies. 

In 1939 she, along with several other actors and directors, created a fund to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany and providing for their needs when they had reached the U.S. She donated her entire salary from one movie, $450,000 to this fund. After the U.S. entered the war in December of 1941, Dietrich became one of the first public figures to help sell war bonds. She is credited with selling more bonds than anyone else. She also took part in two extended USO tours entertaining troops throughout the Pacific and Europe. 

In 1944 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) connected with Marlene to make some German recordings. These were designed to weaken the morale of German troops. She would sing traditional and popular German songs and intersperse commentary about how futile the war was going for Germany, encouraging German troops to be smart and surrender. These recordings were aired over radio and even on gigantic loudspeakers installed near front line units. These recordings likely played a role in the large numbers of German troops who surrendered in the closing months of the war. For her efforts, Marlene received the Medal of Freedom from President Truman for her valuable contribution to the war effort. 

After the war Marlene Dietrich continued to be active in movies, most notably in Judgment at Nuremburg in 1961. She also maintained a stage and music career well into the 1970s. She died in Paris in 1992.

Noor Inayat Khan  (nor uh-nai-et con)    Born the royal daughter of an Indian pacifist, Noor Inayat Khan was an improbable candidate to become a wartime operative. Noor’s father was born in Bombay and was a skilled musician. On a tour of the U.S. he married Noor’s mother whom he met in Albuquerque.  When Noor was a young girl, her parents moved the family to France. She grew up speaking French and English. As a young woman Noor became a writer and a poet, publishing several children’s books. She also performed on French radio. 

In 1940 when France was invaded by Germany, Noor and her family escaped to England. Even though they had been raised with strict pacifist principles, Noor and her brother decided they wanted to do whatever they could to help the Allied effort against the Nazis. She joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and was trained in radio communications. 

In 1943 Noor became the first woman sent into France as a radio operator. Noor's mission would be an especially dangerous one. The job of the operator was to maintain a link between the operatives in the field and London, sending and receiving messages about planned sabotage operations or about where arms were needed for resistance fighters. Hiding as best she could, with aerials strung up in attics or disguised as washing lines, she tapped out Morse Code on the key of transmitters, and would often wait alone for hours for a reply saying the messages had been received. If she stayed on the air transmitting for more than 20 minutes, her signals were likely to be picked up by the enemy, and detection vans would trace the source of these suspect signals.

Sometime in the fall of 1943 Noor was betrayed by an unknown person to the Germans. She was arrested in October of that year and interrogated at Gestapo headquarters in Paris. The following month she somehow managed to escape the prison where she was being held, but was recaptured within days. She was sentenced to be sent to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and later transferred to Dachau where she and three other women spies were executed in September of 1944. 

After the war Noor was posthumously awarded the Cross of St. George by the British Government and the Croix de Guerre by the French. In 2012 a bronze bust of Noor was unveiled at Gordon Square Gardens in London.

Julia Child   And finally, you might remember watching PBS back in the day and seeing a show called The French Chef. This show starred a very tall and interesting lady named Julia Child. When I say very tall, Julia was 6’2” unusually tall for a woman in the 1940s. So tall in fact that when she tried to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps she was told that they didn’t have a uniform that would fit her. So she joined the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) instead. 

She started out as a secretary, but, because of her education and experience, soon was given a more responsible position as a top-secret researcher working directly for the head of OSS. In addition to performing organizational and clerical duties, Child was part of a research and development team. Perhaps her greatest contribution to the war effort was cooking up an effective shark repellent. Not only was this an aid to sailors and downed airmen, but the shark repellent was also applied to underwater mines and explosives. There had been a problem with curious sharks setting off mines intended for enemy shipping. Julia Child’s shark repellent is still in use today. For her service, Child received an award that cited her many virtues, including her "drive and inherent cheerfulness"

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Remnant Stew is part of Rook & Raven Ventures and is created by me, Leah Lamp. Dr. Steven Meeker and I research, write and host each episode along with commentary by our audio producer, Phillip Sinquefield. Theme music is by Kevin MacLeod with voiceover by Morgan Hughes. Special thanks goes out to Brandy Nichols, Judy Meeker, and Harbin Gould.

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Until next time remember to choose to be kind…AND ALWAYS STAY CURIOUS!