WOMEN IN INTELLIGENCE

World War I

Topics included here:

1. Belgium

2. France

3. Germany

4. Great Britain

5. Mata Hari

6. United States

1. Belgium

de Croÿ, Princess Marie. War Memories. London: Macmillan, 1932.

2. France

In World War I, Louise de Bettignies worked for the British and the French as a spy and aided escaped Allied prisoners of war. She was captured by the Germans and, although a death sentence was commuted, she died in prison in 1918. Polmar and Allen, Spy Book, p. 157.

Coulson, Thomas. Queen of Spies, Louise de Bettignies. London: Constable, 1935. [Chambers]

Redier, Antoine. The Story of Louise de Bettignies. London: Hutchinson, 1925.

3. Germany

Bisher, Jamie. "Conjecture on the de Cramm Affairs." Intelligencer 16, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 55-57

This is a neat little piece of historical investigation, described by the author thusly: "Evidence suggests that Matilda de Cramm, intimate friend and French tutor of U.S. Ambassador to Russia David R. Francis during the Bolshevik Revolution, was a German or Austro-Hungarian agent, as was her estranged husband, Dr. Ludwig de Cramm."

Williams, John W. "The Legends of Fräulein Doktor in Print and Film." Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene 11, no. 1 (1992): 7-9.

4. Great Britain

Hoehling, A.A. Edith Cavell. London: Cassell, 1958.

Cavell was the English-born matron at a Brussels hospital when the Germans pushed across Belgium at the opening of World War I. The rapid German advance trapped Allied soldiers behind the lines. Cavell cared for the sick and wounded and helped smuggle out the healthy ones. Captured by the Germans, she was shot as a spy in 1915.

Winstone, H.V.F. Gertrude Bell. London: Barzan, 2004.

According to Peake, Studies 50.3 (Sep. 2006) and Intelligencer 15.2 (Fall-Winter 2006-2007), the author tells the story of a "most remarkable upper-class, privileged, eccentric Victorian lady." She was "the first women officer in British military intelligence," serving in the Arab Bureau, headquartered in Cairo, during World War I. Bell "was subsequently transferred to Basra, where she remained until the British army took Baghdad."

5. Mata Hari

Coulson, Thomas. Mata Hari: Courtesan and Spy. London: Hutchinson, 1930. New York: Harper, 1930. [Chambers]

Counterintelligence News and Developments. "Myth Dispelled." Mar. 1999. [http://www.nacic.gov]

"British intelligence officials reported on January 26 [1999] that they could find no evidence to prove that Mata Hari ... worked as a secret agent. The 84-year-old files released by MI5 ... outline its investigation of Mata Hari, the stage name of Dutch woman Marguerite Zelle. Despite exhaustive accounts of her movements, contacts, and belongings, there was not enough evidence that could be considered as proof of 'espionage activities,' the Public Record's officials said." See also, Michael Evans, "MI5 Papers: Mata Hari 'Was Just A Fantasist,'" Times (London), 27 Jan. 1999.

Howe, Russell Warren. Mata Hari: The True Story. New York: Dodd & Mead, 1986.

Wheeler, IJI&C 1.3, calls this a "disappointing book.... What is new is the elaborate detail Howe has provided showing how French Intelligence victimized Mata Hari by creating a patently phoney case against her." The author provides a "detailed but plodding analysis" and his "grasp of the details and trends of World War I history is at times both uncertain and dubious.... [H]is picture of the secret war of codes and ciphers in World War I is full of gross generalizations, weak interpretations, and errors of fact." Howe's analysis of Mata Hari's character and attitudes "lacks verisimilitude and objectivity."

The author of what is generally regarded as the most accurate work on Mata Hari, Waagenaar, I&NS 2.4, basically destroys Howe's work in a detailed, almost point-by-point review. He finds Howe's research "unreliable," and his thesis that Mata Hari was framed by the French "erroneous." In addition, Howe made "a total hodge-podge of the details of Mata Hari's espionage efforts."

Leeman, Sue. "British Intelligence Was Never Able to Uncover Mata Hari's Secrets." Washington Times National Weekly Edition, 1-7 Feb. 1999, 18.

Formerly classified British documents show that the British intelligence interrogated Mata Hari twice (once in December 1915 and again in November 1916), but were unable to get her to admit to spying for the Germans.

Ostrovsky, Erika. Eye of Dawn: The Rise and Fall of Mata Hari. New York: Macmillan, 1978.

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

Olmsted, I&NS 19.2, calls this book a "superb history of female spies who worked for the British" in World War I. The author "ably details the many roles that women played in the intelligence bureaucracy during the war.... [And she] makes some trenchant observations about the gendered nature of intelligence." According to Peake, Studies 47.4 (2003), the author "discovered that at a time when women could not vote or hold political office, more than 6,000 had worked in a variety of sensitive intelligence-related positions.... They served as clerks and couriers, telephone and telegraph operators, code and cipher analysts, and spies behind enemy lines in Europe."

Schirmann, Léon. Mata-Hari. Autopsie D'Une Machination. Paris: Éditions italiques, 2001.

Brückner, JIH 4.1, notes that this book is being "presented ... as the companion volume to the file of the Military Court" [see Turbergue, ed., Mata-Hari (2001)]. The author claims that Mata Hari's death sentence resulted from "the combined machinations of three men": French counterintelligence officer Captain Ladoux, German military attaché in Madrid Major Kalle, and examining magistrate of the Military Court Major Bouchardon. "However, a closer look at the documents and at the facts of the case shows that the author would be well advised to reconsider his position."

Turbergue, Jean-Pierre, ed. Mata-Hari. Le Dossier Secret Du Conseil de Guerre. Intro., Patrick Pesnot; epilogue, général (CR) André Bach. Paris: Éditions italiques, 2001.

For Brückner, JIH 4.1, the opening of the dossier of the military court that tried Mata Hari and condemned her to death in 1917 demonstrates "that, contrary to established opinion, the 3rd Military Court gave Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod alias Mata-Hari a fair trial, and that she nearly got away." In the end, it was her confession that did her in, not the French justice system.

Waagenaar, Sam. The Murder of Mata Hari. London: Arthur Barker, 1964.

Wheelwright, Julie. The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage. West Sussex, UK: Juliet Gardner Books, 1992. [pb] West Sussex, UK: Collins & Brown, 1993.

6. United States

Smoot, Betsy Rohaly. "An Accidental Cryptologist: The Brief Career of Genevieve Young Hitt." Cryptologia 35, no. 2 (Apr. 2011): 164-175.

From "Abstract": "Genevieve Young Hitt, wife of Colonel Parker Hitt, was one of the first woment to perform cryptologic functions for the U.S. Army, first as an unpaid amateur during the Punitive Expedition and later as a paid cryptographer during World War I."

Return to Women Table of Contents