Women in History: Virginia Hall


In order to celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m going to be doing a series on different interesting women that deserve more attention in our History classes.


To start the week off, we’re going to talk about Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked with the Britain Special Operations Executive during World War II, the American Office of Strategic Services, and even with the CIA.


Hall wanted to join the Foreign Service while living in Poland but accidentally shot herself in the left leg while hunting. It was later amputated from the knee down and replaced with a wooden prosthetic that she named “Cuthbert.” She later moved to Paris during WWII and began working as a French ambulance driver.


When Paris fell to the Germans, she fled to London, where she served with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and received training in weapons and resistance. She worked to help the French Resistance under the cover of a journalist for the New York Post and managed to establish a secret network of loyal French citizens. Her fame only grew as she helped to smuggle both money and SOE agents.


While the French called her the “la Dame Qui Boite”, the Germans began to hunt for this “Limping Lady.”


When the Germans seized the rest of France, Hall and the SOE escaped by train, but the group also had to endure a 30-mile hike by foot.



After crossing into Spain, Hall was arrested for entering the country illegally and spent six weeks in jail before American officials could secure her release. She then joined the Office of Strategic Services, who sent her back to France under the cover of a farmhand in a rural village. To blend in, she dyed her hair, shuffled her feet to hide her limp, and had her teeth fillings altered to match French dentistry. She worked as a radio operator and coordinated supply drops, found safe houses, and reported on German troop movements.


Hall also trained Resistance forces to wage guerrilla warfare against the Germans. In her final report, she stated that her team had destroyed 4 bridges, derailed freight trains, severed a key rail line, and downed telephone lines. Her team was also credited with killing 150 Germans and capturing 500 more.


After the end of the war, she joined the CIA and worked as an intelligence analyst on French parliamentary affairs until her mandatory retirement at age 60.


In September 1945, she was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross-- the only one awarded to a civilian woman in WWII. She was also awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France, a medal given to soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with the enemy. She died at age 76 in 1982.



Check in tomorrow for another awesome woman!


Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Hall