The Limping Lady
The Nazi secret police were hunting her. They had distributed “wanted” posters throughout Vichy France, posters with a sketch of a sharp-featured woman with shoulder-length hair and wide-set eyes, details provided by French double agents.
They were determined to stop her, an unknown “woman with a limp” who had established resistance networks, located drop zones for money and weapons and helped downed airmen and escaped POWs travel to safety. The Gestapo’s orders were clear and merciless: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.
Virginia Hall’s origins began in Baltimore where it soon became evident that she had no intention of heading down the road of life to housewifedom. After a year at Barnard and another at Radcliffe, she was off to Europe in 1926 to finish her education at the Sorborne in Paris and the Konsularakademie in Vienna.
Then came a series of frustrating attempts to join the Foreign Service. She did not do well in her first examination, so she decided to gain experience and try again while working for the State Department as a clerk overseas. It was while in Turkey, in December 1933, that she lost her lower leg in a hunting accident. After recovering at home, she was fitted with a wooden prosthesis that had rubber under the foot. She then returned to her clerk duties, this time in Venice, Italy, where her Foreign Service dreams ended: She was told that Department regulations prohibited hiring anyone without the necessary number of appendages.