mardi, 28, mars 2023

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The Dupont Circle

Female Spies Take Center Stage at the International Spy Museum

As we celebrate Women's History Month, we would like to showcase three remarkable women whose stories are prominently featured in our galleries

At the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, we illuminate both renowned and lesser-known stories of female spies and their missions, as well as the technologies they employ and the consequences of the intel they gather. Women have played a crucial role in this clandestine realm all over the globe and throughout history.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, we would like to showcase three remarkable women whose stories are prominently featured in our galleries.

Mati Hari

When guests step into our dazzling Spies & Spymasters gallery, they are greeted by five larger-than-life figures, with Mata Hari being one of the most striking. Our Mata Hari exhibit delves into the real-life espionage career of the World War I spy, as well as the pop culture stereotype that she has inspired. Despite her notoriety, it is important to remember that Mata Hari was a genuine person who spied during the war. Her past as a renowned dancer contributed to the enduring femme fatale image of the seductive spy. In the exhibition, visitors can view one of her dance costumes and a photograph of the man who may have set her up for the crime of espionage.

Mati Hari

Josephine Baker

As guests journey through our exhibits, they descend a staircase to the 4th floor and enter a stunning rotunda. To the left, they catch a glimpse of the illustrated sheet music cover for the tango "Voluptuosa," composed for the legendary entertainer Josephine Baker. Although born in the United States, Baker fell in love with France and became a French citizen. During World War II, she tirelessly worked for French liberation by collecting and passing intelligence, raising money, and rallying support. The vintage copy of "Voluptuosa" displayed in our exhibit holds a hidden secret - concealed among the musical notes were invisible ink notes about German military strategies and troop movements that she used for her intelligence work.

Despite her iconic status as a performer, Josephine Baker's espionage work for the French Resistance during World War II is a lesser-known part of her story. In our exhibit, guests can see a vintage copy of Voluptuosa, a tango she inspired and used as a tool for passing intelligence. Alongside this artifact, we highlight Baker's remarkable contributions to the war effort, which included collecting and passing intelligence, raising money, and rallying support. As one of her colleagues put it, "It was very nice of you to save France for us, Josephine!" Her espionage work is a fascinating and inspiring aspect of her legacy.


Virginia Hall

As you make your way through the exhibit, be sure to stop by our “Spying in World War II” gallery, where we showcase the courageous women who fought for the Allied cause. One of the most inspiring figures you'll encounter is Virginia Hall, a Baltimore native who lost a leg in a hunting accident but refused to let it stop her from becoming a hero in occupied France. See the actual radio she used to transmit and receive vital information for her network of resistance fighters and learn how they helped pave the way for the Allies. Hall's exceptional bravery earned her the Distinguished Service Cross, making her the only female civilian to receive this prestigious award during World War II. Don't miss the chance to see documents, including her international driver’s license which listed her cover job as a journalist, that provide a fascinating glimpse into her daring exploits.

As guests journey through the Museum's exhibitions, they'll discover countless tales of remarkable women in the realm of espionage. The collection boasts an array of spy gadgets used by or tailored for women, such as concealment earrings, a jewelry box with a hidden compartment, the KGB lipstick pistol, and the East German bra camera.

Furthermore, visitors can view the Sisterhood of Spies video, where female spies share their experiences on how their gender affected their intelligence work and how being a woman was sometimes an asset in their field.

We invite you to explore our extensive collections by visiting our world-class museum in Washington, DC or tuning in to our virtual programs and podcasts, to learn more about women's contributions to the world of intelligence throughout history.

Virginia Hall


By Amanda A. Ohlke, Adult Education Director at the International Spy Museum