Women's Involvement in Espionage

Essay by xmbeexHigh School, 11th grade May 2004

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According to Merriam-Webster Online, an intelligence operation is the process by which governments, military groups, businesses, and other organizations systematically collect and evaluate information for the purpose of discovering the capabilities and intentions of their rivals. Highly sensitive information must derive from a clandestine collection, and generally falls into three categories: human intelligence, signals intelligence, and photographic intelligence. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was a U.S. agency created in 1942 during World War II under the jurisdiction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the purpose of obtaining such intelligence. During WWII, many women began to participate in war operations through the OSS and other similar agencies. Of the many brave women to pioneer through this new occupation, Mary Bancroft, Jane Foster, Virginia Hall, and Amy Elizabeth Thorpe Pack became legendary figures in their life-threatening enterprises.

Exceeding standard accomplishments of her 20th century women peers, Mary Bancroft earned one of the highest positions in the OSS, aiding not only the Allies, but also the cause for women in general.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1903, Mary was the first daughter to Mary Agnes Cogan and of Hugh Bancroft, later publisher of The Wall Street Journal (Knowles). After graduating from The Winsor School, in Boston in1921, Mary attended Smith College for three months in 1922. She married Sherwin Badger, figure skating champion of the U.S.A. While spending a year in Cuba for Sherwin's business in the United Fruit Company, they had three children: a son George who died in infancy, Sherwin, Jr., and Mary Jane. In 1932, Mary divorced Sherwin and 3 years later, married Jean Rufenacht.

Later in the 30's, Bancroft moved to Zurich, where she was analyzed by and studied with C.G. Jung. This was a formative experience and psychology eventually became a life-long interest (Knowles). Being...