10 Fantastic Nonfiction Reads: True Stories Featuring Women Spies

Posted on March 14, 2019

by April S

What’s it really like to be a spy? Most of us are familiar with the fictionalized versions of spy stories, but how much of it is based on reality? When you’re talking about code breaking, deep cover ops, espionage, intrigue, dangerous situations and risking your life on a daily basis … the stories are bound to be interesting to say the least.

Did you know Josephine Baker was a spy for the French Resistance during World War II? Her fame provided her with unique opportunities and the perfect cover story. During parties she was able to gather sensitive information with the help of Jacques Abtey (a secret agent masquerading as Baker’s assistant) who recorded details onto Baker’s sheet music using invisible ink. How cloak and dagger is that?

During Women’s History Month and beyond, let’s explore the amazing lives of women, their impact and lasting legacies. Below, you’ll find a selection of inspiring true stories about women who just happened to work as spies.

Celebrating Extraordinary Women

Nonfiction Books Featuring Female Spies

Code Name : Lise : The True Story of World War II's Most Highly Decorated Spy by Larry Loftis

Code Name : Lise : The True Story of World War II’s Most Highly Decorated Spy by Larry Loftis

Tells the true story of Odette Sansom, the British spy who operated in occupied France and fell in love with her commanding officer during World War II.

A Cool and Lonely Courage : The Untold Story of Sister Spies in Occupied France by Susan Ottaway

Tells the story of British special agents Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne, two sisters who risked everything to fight for freedom in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.

A Cool and lonely courage : the untold story of sister spies in Occupied France / Susan Ottaway
Queen of Spies : Daphne Park, Britain's Cold War Spy Master by Paddy Hayes

Queen of Spies : Daphne Park, Britain’s Cold War Spy Master by Paddy Hayes

Recounts the fascinating story of the evolution of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) from World War II to the Cold War and beyond through the eyes of one of its outstanding and most unusual operatives.

The Spy Who Loved : The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley

Documents the story of the first British female special agent in World War II, discussing her mixed heritage, daring missions in numerous countries, significant intelligence contributions, and subsequent murder by an obsessed colleague.

The spy who loved : the secrets and lives of Christine Granville / Clare Mulley
Spymistress : The Life of Vera Atkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II by William Stevenson

Spymistress : The Life of Vera Atkins, the Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War II by William Stevenson

A portrait of world War II British spy Vera Atkins describes her recruitment at the age of twenty-five by a legendary spymaster, her work within Winston Churchill’s covert intelligence agency, and her pivotal work for Allied forces.

The Last Goodnight : a World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal by Howard Blum

Presents a portrait of American debutante and World War II spy Betty Pack that draws on recently declassified files to explore her MI-6 career and key role in successful Allied missions.

The Last Goodnight : a World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal by Howard Blum
Breaking cover : my secret life in the CIA and what it taught me about what's worth fighting for / Michele Rigby Assad

Breaking Cover : My Secret Life in the CIA and What it Taught Me about What’s Worth Fighting For by Michele Rigby Assad

A real-life, can’t-put-down spy memoir. The CIA is looking for walking contradictions. Recruiters seek out potential agents who can keep a secret yet pull classified information out of others; who love their country but are willing to leave it behind for dangerous places; who live double lives, but can be trusted with some of the nation’s most highly sensitive tasks.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy : Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott

The never-before-told story of four real-life women who risked everything to take on a life of espionage during the Civil War.

Liar, temptress, soldier, spy : four women undercover in the Civil War / Karen Abbott
The Pinks : The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency by Chris Enss

The Pinks : The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency by Chris Enss

Profiles some of the most important women who worked for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, including Kate Warne and Elizabeth Van Lew.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes : A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

Describes the true story of Elizebeth Smith, a Shakespeare expert, who met and married a groundbreaking cryptologist and worked with him to discover and expose Nazi spy rings in South America by cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine.

The woman who smashed codes : a true story of love, spies, and the unlikely heroine who outwitted America's enemies / Jason Fagone

But Wait, There’s More …

Women Fighting for the Resistance

	Madame Fourcade's secret war : the daring young woman who led France's largest spy network against Hitler / Lynne Olson
A Woman of No Importance : the untold story of the American spy who helped win WWII / Sonia Purnell
D-Day Girls : the untold story of the female spies who helped win World War Two / by Sarah Rose Crown

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our other blog posts featuring spies.

Further Reading

6 Incredible Female Spies of World War II

Female Spies in World War I and World War II

The Women Code Breakers Who Unmasked Soviet Spies

Female Spies: ‘Just Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Jobs’

6 People You Didn’t Know Were WWII Spies

10 Real-Life Female Spies Who Deserve Their Own Movie Franchises

Give 3 Get 3

What’s Give 3 Get 3 you ask? It’s a personalized reading/listening/viewing recommendation service provided by the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Basically, librarians provide customers with reading, listening and/or viewing suggestions based on a short questionnaire. Tell us about 3 titles you enjoyed recently (and why) and we’ll send you back 3 more recommendations based on your responses.

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