The lure of foreign espionage

Marguerite Harrison with husband, Tom, and son, Tommy. Courtesy of Nancy Harrison.

“I’m a terrible mother,” Marguerite Harrison kept telling herself. Why else would a 39-year-old widow leave her 16-year-old son in the care of her servants and in-laws to travel halfway across the world to spy for the U.S. Army?

She told Tommy that she wouldn’t be gone long. She said she was doing this to serve the country. She reasoned that it was the only way she could witness the momentous events that were transpiring in Europe as old regimes gave way to new governments.

Marguerite was not a feminist who fought for equal rights for women. She took no interest in the women’s suffrage movement, and according to an FBI report compiled when she was in her sixties, she never voted.

She never needed equal rights or protections afforded by laws. She had always succeeded in getting what she wanted with her connections as a member of Baltimore’s high society.

So the most likely answer to the question of why she entered the intelligence service was that she longed for adventure. Always rebellious, she wanted to break out from routine. Always self-confident, she wanted to test her wits and skills in the most dangerous occupation afforded her: foreign espionage.

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