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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday Spotlight: Doralynn Kennedy

Espionage, Shark Repellent, and Invisible ink.

In my debut novel, Sleeping With Skeletons, Margaret Garrison is a CIA honeypot -- on the run and in hiding. She has as many men in her life as she has names. Leigh has Danny. Virginia has Riyad. And Margaret has Aidan.

But she’s just one woman, and only one man will get her.

Let’s hope he’s the right one.

Women have long played an important role in the clandestine activities of groups of all sizes, from small factions to large super powers.

In the Bible, “Rahab the Harlot”, hid twelve Jewish spies and has been forever memorialized in the best-selling book of all time.

Virginia Hall was a clerk with the Department of State. She was turned down for a position in foreign service, partly due to her gender, but also because she had a wooden leg and walked with a limp. But neither her sex nor her disability could hold back this indomitable lady. She traveled to Europe and joined the French underground, where she became a field officer. She became fluent in German and French and had knowledge of Morse Code and could work a wireless radio. Because of these skills, she became a valuable asset to the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA.

During the D-Day invasion, Virginia Hall worked with the French underground to cut electrical lines to telegraph offices, disrupting German communications. She also worked as a milkmaid, delivering milk to German soldiers. But that was a cover used to collect intelligence. She became known as the “limping lady of the OSS.” Later, after the war, she became one of the CIA’s first female operations officers. She received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest U.S. military award for bravery.

In my novel, one of my main character’s aliases is in honor of this incredible woman.

Josephine Baker, an American expatriate, was a well-known entertainer and actress. She was a popular singer who became a French citizen in 1937. She was known as the “Bronze Venus” and the “Black Pearl”, as well as the “Créole Goddess” and “La Baker”. Josephine Baker was the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, and she made significant contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. She was even offered the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement by Coretta Scott King following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Josephine Baker was also a spy.

She served in the French Resistance during World War II and was the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de Guerre. During the war, Josephine Baker smuggled secret information written in invisible ink on her sheet music. Due to her fame, she was able to complete her missions unnoticed. Passport checkers were so stage struck, that they gave her free access to all of Europe, never suspecting that she was, in fact, a spy.

Perhaps one of the most unlikely spies of all time was the famous chef, Julia Child.

Long before she became a household name and a flamboyant TV personality, she worked for the OSS. She started her service in the OSS Headquarters shortly after the United States entered World War II. One of her most famous assignments was to solve a problem that faced the U.S. naval forces during World War II. Sharks were bumping into explosives placed underwater, setting them off before they could sink German U-boats as intended. Julia Child, along with several male counterparts, invented a shark repellent that was used to coat the explosives. They literally cooked up an ingenious recipe that stopped a deadly problem, saving an unknown number of lives.

She served in Ceylon and in China, where she was the head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat. She was awarded the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service for her leadership in that post.

During America’s Revolutionary War, General George Washington was aided by information provided by the mysterious “355,” a female member of the Culper spy ring. The number “355" was code for “lady”. This unknown woman helped expose Benedict Arnold as a traitor. To this day, no one knows who she was. Like so many brave women who have served, and continue to serve as spies, she simply did what had to be done and then faded into obscurity, taking her secrets with her to the grave.

I hope you enjoyed this brief history lesson on spycraft. If you'd like to spend more time in the company of spies, let me recommend my debut novel, Sleeping With Skeletons.


The Reading Frenzy said...

Wow, I had no idea the role that women played. It's great to know also that we're not always chattle and recognized for what we're good at.
Thanks Doralynn

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Deb, that's such a small sampling of women's roles in espionage. Maybe I should write a book about that someday! Thanks again. Doralynn

Dena said...

Great post, I knew about Josephine but the other Women stories are new to me. Thanks for sharing, your book will be very good reading I think.

Cathy M said...

Great info, Doralynn, I really think you should write a book about this topic.

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Dena, thanks for posting. I appreciate your comments very much. Doralynn

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Cathy, thanks for your kind comment. I'm thinking very seriously about writing a book on the topic. Thanks again. Doralynn

Karen H said...

Great post today Doralynn. I knew Julia Child was an OSS operative and that she was involved in lots of secret stuff. But I had no idea Josephine Baker was a spy as well. Thanks for the history lesson today!

Doralynn Kennedy said...

Hi Karen, I'm glad you enjoyed the brief history on women spies. My favorite has to be Julia Child though... just because it's so unexpected, and she's so well known. It almost always surprises people when I tell them. Very few people I meet know about that part of her life. Thanks for your comment. Doralynn

Cathryn Bonica said...

Julia Child? A spy? Just goes to show you the dynamic and adaptable nature of women. You got an intelligent, crafty woman who can cook like nobody else, sabotage enemies, and give birth. Name one male who can do such things. Thanks for the lesson, Doralynn. You have created such a dynamic character in Skeletons with Margaret. A thrilling, edge-of-your-seat read!