Did a love affair spark Harrison’s espionage career?

Albert Ritchie

Marguerite Harrison struggled to explain her decision to become a spy. She later recalled she was seized with restlessness and a desire to witness events unfolding in Europe at the end of World War I. Some historians have described her as a distraught widow who joined the intelligence service to forget her grief.

One more possibility must be considered. Feminist author Carolyn G. Heilbrun noted that often women set off in new and unexplained courses after a crisis in a sexual affair.

Could this have been the case with Marguerite?

According to family legend, Marguerite had an affair with her brother-in-law, Albert Ritchie, who was the Maryland attorney general and later would become the state’s governor.

Ritchie married Marguerite’s sister, Elizabeth, in 1907 but the marriage was not a happy one and couple separated in 1910. It was not until six years later, however, that Elizabeth filed for divorce, accusing Ritchie of abandonment.

Why did Elizabeth wait so long to file for divorce? Had she hoped for a reconciliation? Or did she discover that Marguerite was having an affair with Ritchie?

Marguerite’s husband died in 1915 and she later wrote that in the year that followed his death she saw few people except Ritchie and his mother.

But given Ritchie’s political ambitions, did he end the affair? With the governor’s race looming, he certainly would not have wanted the public to learn that he was having an affair with his sister-in-law.

Could the end of her relationship with Ritchie compelled Marguerite to flee Baltimore for overseas service?

It’s just one mystery of Harrison’s complicated life.

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