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Female Spies in World War I: Topics in Chronicling America

Early 20th century newspapers reported a rise in women engaging in espionage during World War One. This guide provides access to material related to "Female Spies in World War I" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

Portrait of Edith Cavell. October 25, 1915. Evening Star (Washington, DC), Image 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Whether for love, country or just a thrill, women from both sides rose up as spies during World War One. Seductive and cunning, they were instrumental in shaping the outcome of the war, provided that they weren’t caught before they could share their information. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

October 31, 1915 Edith Cavell’s death and resultant feminist argument.
June 4, 1916 The broken plan of a broken-armed woman.
December 13, 1917 Baroness Zollner arrested in Annapolis, sending area into uproar.
January 25, 1918 Thrilling experiences of a Maude Muller who ran down German plotters.
February 13, 1918 The love tricks of the woman spy.
April 7, 1918 Queens of the spy world whose intrigues sway the fate of nations.
June 2, 1918 “Mme. Storch - Vampire and German Spy” column begins.
June 11, 1918 The Story of Felice Schmidt.
June 23, 1918 Olga von Marx reveals her life as German spy in an on-going column.
May 16, 1919 The two belated funerals of hero-spy Cavell; Cavell celebrated.
October 21, 1919 Edith Cavell’s life made into an opera.
September 25, 1920 Women spies are selfish.
April 20, 1920 Cavell memorial unveiled. (While not a spy as we generally see them, newspapers and popular culture of the time often referred to her as a “spy-nurse,” or the “nurse who was executed by the Germans as a spy.” Controversy as to whether she was or was not a spy still exists.)
July 2, 1922 Mistinguett's heroic sacrifice for love and France.