Virginia Hall – The One-Legged WWII Super Spy the Nazis Couldn’t Catch

Spy Virginia Hall and one of the war-ravaged French towns she worked in.
Although she was one of the World War II Allied Forces’ most important spies, the exploits of Virginia Hall remained unknown to the world until recently. She worked in battle-torn France for British forces and ultimately became a member of the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA.

Virginia Hall never spoke publicly about her remarkable life because she knew too many people who “were killed for talking too much.” So, until recently, her story was known only within the intelligence community, where documents were known to disappear and code names were so numerous it was hard to know who was who.

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Frances Marion: Trailblazing Screenwriter of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion on set in 1920
On set at a United Artists film shoot in 1920 are Frances Marion (right) and Mary Pickford (left). Marion, who wrote the scripts for more than 130 films during during Hollywood’s Golden Age, was one of the most highly-paid screen writers of her era.

Google “top 25 greatest screenwriters of all time” and you’ll find every single one of them is a man. But from 1915 into the 1930s, a woman named Frances Marion was the most successful and highest-paid screenwriter in show biz.

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Contrary Mary: The Only Female Congressional Medal of Honor Winner

Civil War physician Mary Walker wearing her Congressional Medal of Honor.
The second female medical doctor to be licensed in America, Civil War Union Army veteran Mary Walker is also the only woman to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) is described as contrary, outspoken, feisty, radical, defiant and determined. But as the first woman to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor, the second woman in America to become a licensed medical doctor, a lifelong women’s rights activist, prohibitionist, and a dress reformer who steadfastly refused to accept the stodgy Victorian confines of her gender, I suspect she earned — and needed — every single one of those attributes.

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Florence Mills: Jazz Age ‘Queen of Happiness’

Smashing racial barriers and wowing audiences on two continents, Florence Mills sang and danced her way into the history of the Jazz Age, leading the way for female African American superstars who came after her.

It was the Roaring Twenties, the anything-goes Jazz Age, when Florence Mills made her mark in American history. Known as the “Queen of Happiness,” she was a cabaret singer, dancer and comedienne known for her effervescent stage presence, unique birdlike voice, wide-eyed beauty and slicked bobbed hair imitated by women on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Pauli Murray: A 20th Century Historical Figure You Never Heard of

Pauli Murray as an orphaned teenager, a New York college student sculpted by her friend, and as the brilliant legal mind whose work played a key role in the court challenges of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s ands 60s.

Pauli Murray may be one of the 20th century’s most important historical figures you’ve never heard of. She was a civil rights activist; a gender rights activist and feminist; a lawyer and brilliant legal strategist; historian, author and poet; and, later in life, an ordained priest.

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Loretta Walsh, 1917, First Woman to Enlist in the U.S. Navy

First woman to enlist in the U.S. Navy, Loretta Walsh
When Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1917, that service didn’t yet have uniforms for female sailors. She served as a yeoman at the U.S. Navy Yard in Philadelphia (background photo).

In 1917, twelve words opened the floodgates for women to serve in the military: “It does not say … anywhere that a Yeoman must be a man.” One year after the U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916 allowed qualified “persons” to enlist, history was made when 20-year-old Loretta Perfectus Walsh (1896-1925) did just that, earning herself a whole series of “firsts” in the process.

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