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Female Spies

Espionage or spying focuses on a specialized individual who obtains information considered secretive without permission from the target. Espionage as a whole embodies secrecy, otherwise the target may change plans or engage in countermeasures to forward the information into unauthorized hands. Espionage usually involves a government branch or corporation in an effort to acquire information about potential or actual enemies. Industrial espionage involves corporations, while government espionage usually entails the military services. Spies may infiltrate the enemy's ranks, thus compiling information regarding the size and strength of an enemy army. Spies may also marginalize dissidents in an enemy's camp. Spies can steal technology in order to sabotage the enemy using several methods. Counterintelligence operatives often feed disinformation to enemy spies in order to protect domestic secrets and prevent subversive attempts. Every society erects strict, espionage laws that may result in the death penalty upon being caught. Spies are often associated with men because of the ties to Hollywood. However, women have served in espionage, especially during times of war.

The American Civil War:

Female Spies for the Union:

The Union employed many women to accomplish a variety of tasks during the Civil War. Among them include: Sara Emma Edmonds, Elizabeth Van Lew, Mary Edwards Walker, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, and Harriet Tubman. These operatives served the Union and North to overcome the Confederacy in the South.

Harriet Tubman:

Harriet Tubman, a slave during the pre-Civil War era, conducted a dangerous movement called the Underground Railroad, which helped southern slaves escape to the North. Tubman served as a nurse, scout and spy during the American Civil War.

Sarah Emma Edmonds:

Sarah Emma Edmonds served as a nurse, soldier, and spy during the American Civil War. Edmonds acclaimed memoir recounts her personal experiences at the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

Female Spies for the Confederate States:

The Confederacy employed many women to accomplish a variety of tasks during the Civil War, including Belle Boyd, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Laura Ratcliffe, Antonia Forc, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, and Nancy Hart. These operatives served to pass information to the Confederacy. Some of them were captured and imprisoned, while others escaped detection.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow:

Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a Confederate spy that went by the name of "Wild Rose." She was a major factor of the winning at the Battle of Bull Run. A compilation of personal letters details her attempts at undermining the North.

World War I and World War II:

Female espionage, largely ignored during World World War I and II, include these particular operatives:

Iva Ikuko Toquri d'Aquino "Tokyo Rose": Iva Ikuko Toguri d'Aquino was convicted of treason by disseminated propaganda during World War II; however, she was pardoned due to public demand. Prisoners of War speak their accounts of her efforts to undermine the Japanese agenda.

Josephine Baker:

Josephine Baker, an exotic dancer, gathered intelligence for the French underground during World War II.

Mata Hari:

Mata Hari faced execution in 1917 by the French for spying on the Germans. Hari used her sexuality to gain pertinent information.

Mildred Haarnack:

Michelle Murno writes on behalf of Mildred Haarnack, a German-American woman who worked against the Nazis by assisting the Russians during World War II. She was the only American woman executed for opposing Hitler.

Miss Jenny:

Miss Jenny was a spy during the American Revolution who was taken by a German mercenary known as Baron Ottendorf of the British Army. She was sent to General Washington's camp to face interrogation and punishment for espionage. She was allowed to return to Britain. Upon arrival, she reported Washington's plan to attack New York City.

Melita Norwood:

Melita Norwood, touted as the "spy of the century" during the 1990s, betrayed the British by exposing and forwarding secrets to the Soviets after Joseph Stalin took power. She refused financial retribution for her efforts.

Ethel Rosenberg:

Ethel Rosenberg served in espionage during the Cold War. Rosenberg was convicted of the conspiracy to commit espionage. She and her husband were executed in 1953 for refusing to give information against the Communist Party spies.

Rose Pastor Stokes:

Rose Pastor Stokes, born in Russia, was convicted of breaching the Espionage Act in 1917 over writing a letter to a newspaper that states, "no government for the profiteers can also represent the people, and I represent the people, while the government represents the profiteers."

Violette Szabo

Violette Szabo was a half British and half French woman who volunteered during World War II. She parachuted into France before losing in gun fire with the Germans. She was sent to Ravensbruck in 1945 where she was executed.

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