FBI investigates Harrison for suspicious activities

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s Marguerite continued to give speeches about her travels. According to reports she made with the Society of Woman Geographers, she gave over one hundred lectures a year to clubs and schools. She also broadcast radio shows for the United Services Organization, or USO, during World War II.24

The lectures again brought her to the attention of America’s intelligence services. In the summer of 1941, as war intensified in Europe, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover suddenly ordered his men to open an inquiry into Marguerite. He was concerned that she gave speeches advocating for direct aid to Russia, and he suspected she was a paid foreign agent.

Even the bombing of Pearl Harbor weeks later would not deter Hoover from insisting that the California office conduct a thorough investigation into Marguerite’s activities. Under pressure, the agents complied. They monitored Marguerite’s mail and investigated her bank records. They interviewed her landlady and her neighbors and even contacted retired Army colonel Ralph Van Deman for details about her Berlin service. Spies were sent to her lectures to give a full accounting of what Marguerite told her audiences.

But, try as they might, the FBI found no evidence that Marguerite was working as a foreign agent or was a Communist. In fact, Marguerite seemed to have no political leanings at all. She was obviously knowledgeable and opinionated, but agents found no record that she had ever even voted.

The FBI report the agents compiled again revealed Marguerite as a complicated and not altogether sympathetic woman. She and Blake were struggling financially and living off his small military pension and her lectures. Agents discovered two bank accounts, one with about $523, of which $500 came from a bank loan. The other was an account with about $80 that seemed to be related to bridge club activities. Agents speculated that she and Blake were supplementing their meager income by gambling on bridge games they played.

The landlady told the agents that in the five years Marguerite had been her tenant, she had seen her treat Blake “with contempt and cruelty.” Blake, while handsome and educated, was not Marguerite’s intellectual equal. The landlady said Marguerite “often made him the butt of sarcasm and vitreous tirades.”

 Marguerite’s wrath was not confined to only her husband, the landlady said. Once Marguerite’s dog got into a fight with a dog belonging to an elderly neighbor. Marguerite “reached out and separated the animals ‘in a perfect fury’ and had struck the old lady, knocking her to the ground.”

While noting Marguerite’s keen intellect, the landlady said she found her tenant to be unethical and unscrupulous. When a visitor knocked at her door to ask a question about one of her lectures, Marguerite slammed the door in the visitor’s face, saying “she could not be troubled with every Tom, Dick and Harry cluttering up her apartment and asking foolish questions.”

Given the ongoing investigation into Marguerite’s activities, the Los Angeles agents must have been surprised, or at least amused, when on January 20, 1941, Marguerite showed up at the field office offering her services once again for her country. She told the agent who interviewed her that she was a former newspaper woman who had previously worked for the Army intelligence service and that she read and spoke fluently Italian, Russian, and German.

The Bureau declined Marguerite’s offer.

J. Edgar Hoover ordered his men to investigate Harrison.

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