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Showing posts by: Kate Quinn click to see Kate Quinn's profile
Jul 10 2017 2:00pm

Unsung Heroines: The Forgotten Female Spies of World War I

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Today we're thrilled to welcome Kate Quinn (The Alice Network) to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Kate's book covers the secret lives of some of World War I's most interesting spies—the women of The Alice Network. Kate is here today to talk about those undercover women, the work they did, and the badass lives they lead. Thanks, Kate!

“Female spies.” The word conjurs up images of James Bond villainesses in slinky dresses, purring double-edged one-liners through a haze of cigarette smoke as they coax information out of their helpless marks. Spying wasn't really perceived as glamorous until after the Bond myth took hold, but women have always been essential parts of the intelligence business, simply because women could often eavesdrop, run messages, or pass information without being noticed and suspected as men would have been. World War I's most successful spy ring was called the Alice Network, and it was run by a woman. Her name was Louise de Bettignies, and she was known as the Queen of Spies.

Louise was born to an impoverished manufacturing family in France. Well-educated and multi-lingual, she took the Jane Eyre option like many educated-but-broke women of the day, and supported herself as a governess for various noble European families. Louise was in France when war broke out, and on a visit to England soon afterward she was recruited by British intelligence, who were not slow to notice her quick wits and her fluency in French, German, and English. Louise returned to northern France, now occupied by the Germans, and quickly set up a network of sources throughout the region: men, women, and even children who would collect information on the enemy, everything from troop numbers to train schedules to artillery placements. Louise, on the move constantly through the region, compiled her sources' information into reports which she passed back to England.

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