Wolves At The Door: The True Story Of America's Greatest Female

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The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy by Judith Pearson was published on October 1, 2005 and tells a remarkable story of a woman named Virginia Hall who became America’s greatest female spy. Virginia Hall was a woman of true grit. The story being told tells of all the trials and tribulations that led up to Virginia Hall’s famous title of “America’s Greatest Female Spy”. Virginia Hall was a very intelligent, strong-willed woman whom grew up in Baltimore, Maryland with a heart and mind set on adventure with dreams of having a career in the Foreign Service. Virginia had many skills and talents including speaking several languages and the ability to hunt. Virginia attended both Barnard College and Radcliffe College for a year a piece before she decided she wanted something more. In 1926 Virginia headed out of the country to Europe to finish up her education. Virginia Hall decided to take a shot at becoming a Foreign Officer with little to know training except for the knowledge she possessed from her previous education.

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There were a series of examinations that Virginia would need to take in order to become the Foreign Officer she wanted to be. Though Virginia was an intelligent woman, she did not pass her first examination and became very frustrated, but that didn’t stop her. Instead, Virginia decided to take another approach and gain experience and knowledge by applying and working for the State Department as a normal clerk overseas. Though her clerical work was sub-par, she gave it all that she had in attempts to prove that she had what it took to become a Foreign Officer. Virginia Hall was headed the right direction to becoming a Foreign Officer when her dream came to a sudden halt, all thanks to a freak accident that occurred while she was hunting in Turkey in December 1933. This freak accident occurred when Virginia was trying to go under a fence while hunting and accidentally shot herself in the leg. In order to save her life from an infection, Virginia’s left leg had to be amputated from the knee down. This accident and the infection that occurred before amputation almost cost Virginia Hall her life to the point where she saw her deceased father in her hospital room on the night the amputation occurred. After the healing process occurred, Virginia was fit for a wooden appendage in which she named “Cuthbert”. While most people would’ve been down and out about becoming disabled or injured, Virginia never let herself lose sight of her dream of becoming a Foreign Officer.

Most people probably would’ve let a disability or injury define them and stop their dreams from coming true, Virginia kept pushing to become what she had set out to be, a Foreign Officer. After Virginia’s leg had healed up enough to return work, she did just that in Venice, Italy, where she would soon learn her fate. Virginia studied and tried to pass the exams time and time again, and while she would pass one, she would fail another. Virginia received a letter one day that she would never forget, the letter that would end her dream of becoming a Foreign Officer. The letter she received from the department basically told her that being she was missing a portion of one of her appendages, she was unable to become a Foreign Officer. When Virginia found this news out, she decided she needed a change of scenery and was transferred by her job from Venice, Italy to Talin, Estonia. Though a change was needed, Virginia was still not satisfied working for the State Department as just a clerk and decided to resign. After resigning from her clerical positions at the State of Department, Virginia found herself in Paris where the war was just beginning. At the time of the war, there were many injured and many that needed to be taken to hospitals for treatment. Feeling the need to help, Virginia Hall and a friend decided to volunteer their time and service to the French Army by driving an ambulance that transferred soldiers to the closest spot in which they would be medically treated.

This took a toll on Virginia both mentally and physically. Mentally, Virginia had to see many wounded and dead soldiers. Physically, Virginia didn’t have the full amount of strength she once had when she possessed two full length legs and long days driving and transferring soldiers irritated where her leg where it met her prosthesis. Though, when the war ended due to the surrender of France, Virginia was out of a job yet again. Used to adventure and not staying in one place for too long, Virginia found herself in London where she became a clerk again for the American Embassy. Little did she know, her life would soon change forever when she came into contact with someone by the name of Vera Atkins. Vera Atkins wasn’t necessarily someone of high importance, but it was who she knew and what she had the capabilities of doing that made her someone that would make a big impact on Virginia Hall’s life. While Virginia Hall didn’t know it at the time of her and Vera’s first encounter, she impressed her by knowing many different languages, while possessing an American accent, along with her experience volunteering to provide aide to those wounded French soldiers. It was Vera who convinced Virginia to leave the American Embassy and join the SOE, or Special Operations Executive. Little did Virginia know, she was about to experience the thrill of a lifetime including having several aliases, working in the field, and writing for the New York Post of all things.

A little danger was to be expected, but I’m sure Virginia never expected to have to flee from being captured and even be jailed before she was finally set free. While Virginia had heard of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, she had never really took the time to learn more about it due to her previously dangerous job. The OSS conducted support operations for the SOE, and Virginia was wanting to transfer, under the condition that she be sent back to France to work with the resistance. In March of 1944 Virginia was headed to where she wanted to be to be as an undercover agent disguised as an old woman who organized many sabotages, one in which sabotage the German military. Luckily, she was never captured and escaped once again, without revealing her identity. After returning from the German military sabotage, Virginia found herself back in Vienna where she did some training for the OSS. However, Virginia never got to put the training to use as the OSS was ended in 1945. Though the OSS was abolished, Virginia continued climbing the ladder where special agents were concerned and became an agent for the CIA until she was forced to retire because of age at the age of 60. While there are so many great periods of time in Virginia Hall’s life, Judith Pearson did an amazing job highlighting the key factors that made Virginia Hall such an amazing spy. This story radiates inspiring heroism to me, and the fact that she was a woman really strikes a nerve with me. Despite her disability, she pushed forward and became someone she never thought she could become, something far beyond what she had ever imagined.

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