Female Spies In WWI

December 11, 2015 | | 14 Comments

 

Although women were not explicitly involved in the military until World War II, they were very active in the war effort during World War I. Many women served as spies, for and against the Allied Powers. Some of these women grew to great fame and one in particular even became synonymous with female spies[1].

An article preserved by a newspaper database, originally printed in the Daily Ardmoreite, printed in Ardmore, Oklahoma on February 13, 1918 both explains and also warns about the dangers of female spies. The article cites women as being far more dangerous than their male counterparts, because of the way they manipulated men into surrendering lots of information with a simple bat of an eyelash[2].  The author even goes as far as to claim female spies as the most dangerous part of warfare, but also recalling that women were not at all a creation of modern warfare but had been dying for their loves for generations[3]. These female spies were often accompanied by an older gentleman who knew much about the world and the way it worked, and in her pocketbook was a code book through which she would pass notes to her love on the Western Front of the German Army[4].

One such illustrious figure was referred to only as ‘Madame H’, who was as the article so eloquently puts it at the perfect age to be both a lover and also a spy[5]. At the age of 35, she was no longer a questioning youth, seeking to discover what love really means and implies, but instead owned her sexuality in an almost irresistible fashion[6]. Not only is 35 an irresistible age, but it is also an age where very little is concealed and therefore the height of a spies career as men withhold little information which can easily be recorded in the ladies room[7]. This mysterious Madame H, is said to have been an informant to the infamous Franz Shulenberg, suspected leader of the German spy force, on his American mission, she is also known to have belonged to the Wolf von Igel spy nest[8]. Little else is known about Madame H, only that she belonged to the upper class, had clearly received a superior education and was a beautiful brunette[9].

The article includes a few more stories of other female spies who provided their lovers abroad with information about America’s military forces, or the other way around helped their American lovers smuggle information to the front lines[10]. These women worked and aided in the war effort in a very real, and dangerous way, proving that even if not directly fighting on the battlefront, women were crucial in the war effort itself, and have been for many wars before this one[11]. Many women worked in factories, but some women did far more than that, by risking their lives to pass information and gather Intel for and against both sides of the conflict, even though many of their stories are unheard of today.

So afraid and aware of these female spies were people during World War I, that many magazines and newspapers printed warnings about and against them. One such satirical British magazine, Punch, featured several cartoons depicting the very real threat of German spies in a rather humorous way[12]. Although the cartoons were very funny and exaggerated they cleverly suggested and approved of the anti-foreigner attitude of Britain, through parodied images displaying anti-German and also spy paranoia[13].  One such cartoon printed in Punch on September 2, 1914 right before the war officially broke out illustrates a young girl whispering to her mother at a dinner table with her brother sat across from her, and a shadowy female figuring standing in the background[14]. The text at the bottom of the page states explains that the young girl, named Ethel is asking her mother in a rather loud whisper if they will have to kill her governess because she is of German descent[15]. This cartoon demonstrates not only the very blatant anti-German agenda of this particular British magazine, but it also alludes to the clear and present danger of female German spies. This cartoon gives insight into the largely accepted and widely spread knowledge that these spies existed, especially because it shows the child asking her mother, as if to point out that even the children knew of the dangers of potential spies.

The interesting thing about these two sources are the way they refer to and casually speak of the female involvement in the espionage and intelligence movements during World War I. This leads me to believe that the existence of female spies, and spies in general was widely spread and public knowledge. These sources are also provide great insight into the attitudes of not only the United States but also of the British towards female spies, and the way they were apprehended and whispered about. Not only were these women extremely effective and important but there were also a lot of them, which makes me also wonder why many people have never hear of or studied them. Mata Hari, whom is proclaimed as one of the most, if not the most famous female spy of all time is a character many people have probably never heard of. She is so famous that her name has become synonymous with the term female spy[16].

Also these sources, and these stories really do support the term world war, because everyone, even dignified ladies were involved in its progression. Even if women have been aiding in the war effort for generations and generations as nurses, spies, and ammunition smugglers. These sources also demonstrate the way women were absolutely crucial to the war effort, and not just in the work women did in factories while the men were away. Women had been fighting in wars way before the special women’s divisions of World War II were ever born.

Women have been an integral part of the war effort for generations but the female spies of World War I were an integral part of the war effort. They created mass hysteria and paranoia in countries such as England where the threat of German spies was on everyone’s minds. These dangerous femme fatales may seem to be the stuff of fiction but their real life stories are not only incredible but are also a vital untold narrative of the Great War.

Citations

“The Daily Ardmoreite. (Ardmore, Okla.) 1893-current, February 13, 1918, Image 6.” News about Chronicling America RSS. Accessed November 24, 2015. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042303/1918-02-13/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1914&index=1&rows=20&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&words=spy woman&proxdistance=5&date2=1922&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=woman spy&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange.

 

Proctor, Tammy M. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. New York: New York University, 2003.

[1] Proctor, Tammy M. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. New York: New York University, 2003. Page 126.

 

[2] “The Daily Ardmoreite. (Ardmore, Okla.) 1893-current, February 13, 1918, Image 6.” News about Chronicling America RSS. Accessed November 24, 2015. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042303/1918-02-13/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1914&index=1&rows=20&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&words=spy woman&proxdistance=5&date2=1922&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=woman spy&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange.

 

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Daily Ardmoreite. (Ardmore, Okla.)

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid

[11] Proctor, Tammy M. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. Page 14.

[12] Proctor, Tammy M. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. Page 37.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Proctor, Tammy M. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. Page 36.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Proctor, Tammy M. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. Page 126


Comments



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