Virginia Hall had many names in her distinguished career with the SOE, OSS, and later the CIA. She was known by “Germaine”, “Diane”, “Camille”, and my favorite: “la dame qui boite” (the limping lady). The last was the result of a hunting incident in which she accidentally shot herself in the leg which was later amputated. She was given a wooden prosthetic she nicknamed Cuthbert. Later she commented to the SOE that she hoped Cuthbert wouldn’t give her trouble in the French countryside and they responded that, if he did, she should “eliminate him”.
Virginia’s determination, intellect, and perseverance is what kept her alive and earned her an honorary member of the Order of the British Empire and the Distinguished Service Cross. These characteristics are what keeps her in the fore-front of my mind as I raise a daughter today. Virginia Hall, with a wooden leg, was sent behind enemy lines in France (supposedly Hall parachuted back into France with her prosthesis in her pack) to coordinate air drops, train guerillas (she helped train upwards of three battalions of the French Resistance). She knew full well that any allied spies who were found by the Germans were shot on site, at best.
The reason I keep Hall in mind when raising my daughter is that I, for one, want my daughter to become a strong independent woman that, like Virginia, decided she wanted to do something and she did it as good as, if not better, than her male counterparts. She wasn’t arrogant, definitely confident, but not arrogant. When President Truman wanted to award her the Distinguished Service Cross publically, she requested it stayed private so that she could get back to the field instead of receiving much deserved public praise. Today is April 6th, the day Virginia Hall was born (very close to my own daughter’s birthday) so I felt it was important to share why “Marie of Lyon” is such an important figure in our house and why if you have a daughter (and even if you don’t) Virginia Hall should at least be part of the discussion on defining women in history.