The Best Real Life, Kick Ass Female Spies

Real Life Women SpiesTelevision and the movies have a tendency to turn super-hot women into super spies who can do anything.  While those women are typically figments of a man’s imagination, they aren’t completely off base.  The women on this list were very tough, very resilient, and every bit the counterpart to male spies.  Their methods of espionage may have differed from men, but every one of them certainly altered the history of the world.  You’ve probably heard of at least three of these women.  You should recognize the deeds of the other two…



myfivebest -1MATA HARI

Her real name was Margaretha Geertruida “Grietje” Zelle and she went by the stage name of Mata Hari (can you blame her?).  She was a Dutch exotic dancer, prostitute, and spy during World War One.  While she is probably one of the best known female spies in history, there is a good chance that she was never a spy at all.  The Dutch were neutral during WW1 and this gave her the freedom to cross between countries without worry of capture.  Being famous caught the attention of Scotland Yard who had her arrested on charges of espionage.  The British were working with the French who had intercepted some messages about a spy, codenamed H-21.  It was believed that this was Mata Hari.  She denied it and the Germans who sent the message were using a code known to already be broken by the French.  Nonetheless, Mata Hari was tried and executed by firing squad for the deaths of 50,000 soldiers – without a shred of evidence!



myfivebest - 2AGENT 355

No one knows this female spy, codenamed 355, even existed.  What she did, however, is a part of American history.  She did her duty for the United States during the Revolutionary War.  The only direct evidence of Agent 355 comes from Abraham Woodhull, an American patriot, to General George Washington.  Her information revealed the contact between Major John André and the traitor, General Benedict Arnold.  It was the information that she gathered that led to the capture of André, which saved West Point and Britain’s access to the Hudson River.



myfivebest - 3JULIA CHILD

Yes, THAT Julia Child.  The woman known world-wide for her French cuisine and television appearances.  During World War Two, she was cooking up another dish.  She worked for the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which was a pre-cursor to the CIA. Beginning her career as a typist, she soon found herself in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) and China.  Her main job with the OSS was to register, catalog and transfer classified communications.  Her service was declassified in 2008 and you can actually see what she did online!



myfivebest - 4HARRIET TUBMAN

Born Araminta Ross, Tubman was an African-American abolitionist and Union spy during the American Civil War.  She is most famous for her thirteen missions transferring escaped slaves along what was known as the Underground Railroad.  She also helped Abolitionist radical John Brown recruit men for his failed attack on Harpers Ferry (incidentally, there is no apostrophe in Harpers Ferry).  During the Civil War, Tubman became a cook and field nurse helping the Union.  She soon found herself picking up a gun and leading a raid on the Combahee River in South Carolina where she liberated more than 700 slaves.  She also worked with Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick’s character in the movie Glory).  Supposedly, she served him his last meal before the assault on Fort Wagner.  Through all of her years of service with the Union Army, she never received a payment – even though she would have been executed if captured by the Confederate Army!



myfivebest - 5VIOLETTE SZABO

This lady was a British spy who helped with the French Underground following D-Day in 1943.  She was the epitome of the beautiful and brave spy: A true life Lara Croft.  She was a spy-of-all-trades, being a master of intelligence gathering, explosives, hand-to-hand combat, cryptography and sabotage.  Four days after the Normandy landings she found herself in a gunfight with German troops while disrupting German communication lines.  In the battle, she emptied every clip of ammunition she had on her before they finally overran her position.  They put her into the Ravensbrück concentration camp where she was interrogated and tortured.  They kept her there for nearly a year, after which she was executed at the age of 23.  Her legacy has continued with the video game, Velvet Assassin for the X-Box 360, in which the player controls a character named Violette Summer based on Szabo.