From The VG Bookshelf: “The Wolves At The Door”
From The VG Bookshelf: “The Wolves At The Door”
Have you absolutely had it with the poor victimized women of today? Are complaints about the patriarchy giving you thoughts of turning in your “Lady Card”? Do you need a palate cleanser from the toxic femininity and politics of today? I have just the book for you. “The Wolves at the Door” by Judith L. Pearson is a fast paced, true story with no whining.
Virginia Hall was born into a well to do family in 1906. The family property was 110 acres in Maryland called “Box Horn Farm”. Virginia grew up with her older brother, John, riding, hunting and exploring. Travel abroad was also important to the wealthy and educated. Virginia’s folks traveled frequently to “The Continent”. While Virginia’s girlfriends dreamed of marriage and children, Virginia dreamed of the Foreign Service. Not exactly commonplace in those days. And, she made her dream come true. Sort of. She became a filing clerk for the Foreign Service. Well, a girl has got to start somewhere.
While in Smyrna, Turkey, Virginia fell in love with a mama’s boy who dumped her. And, then when she was on a hunting trip with friends, she accidentally shot off her left foot. She was talking and climbing over a fence and her skirt caught on her rifle and oops. Fortunately, she had excellent medical care. Unfortunately, by the time her friends got her to the medical care, gangrene had set in and her left had to be amputated below the knee.
Despite losing her leg at the age of 27, Virginia Hall did not let go of her dreams. Photo credit: The Central Intelligence Agency.
Of course, not being a whiny snowflake, Virginia Hall kept pestering the State Department for a real Foreign Service Posting. After stringing her along, someone at State finally told her that because of the amputation she was not eligible for Foreign Service. So what’s a girl to do. Take an apartment in Paris and lick your wounds if you are Virginia Hall. World War II breaks out and did our heroine run home? Puhlease! Naturally our girl took medical training and became an ambulance driver. This is where “The Wolves at the Door” really hits its stride. Virginia loves France but she sees first hand the ugly truth of the horrors of war and of anti-Semitism. The Jewish population in France never fully integrated and is blamed for every ill imaginable.
By the time the Maginot Line is breached and France surrenders (six weeks of war), Virginia reluctantly leaves France. Fortune and serendipity smile on Virginia and she joins the British Special Operations Executive in England. Virginia, now code named Germaine, took all the training for this clandestine group: weapons, languages, covert operations and physical training. Her wooden leg slowed her down but never held her back.
Virginia was absolutely dedicated to ridding the world of the Nazis. In Lyon, she dealt with the Vichy government while using her cover as a “New York Post” (my favorite newspaper) reporter. I am going to leave all of the cloak and dagger and near misses for you to read about. Klaus Barbie, “The Butcher of Lyon” has flyers made up looking for “The Limping Lady” and Virginia knows that she must leave France. A horrific climb through The Pyrenees takes several days. Cuthbert, her wooden leg is giving her a devil of a time. Her woolen stump socks cannot dry and sores develop.
This video tells of that part of the trip:
Virginia used an old lady shuffle to disguise Cuthbert. She works as an old peasant woman moving cows to pasture, selling cheese and noting Nazi troop movements. When the Nazis begins to close in, she radios the code phrase “The wolves are at the door” to her handlers now at the OSS. But, Virginia will not leave France. There is yet work to be done.
In the end, for her service, Virginia is awarded the British MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), the American Distinguished Service Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor) and the French Croix de Guerre Avec Palme (heroism). She also met the love of her life, Lieutenant Paul Gaston Goillot. He was born in France, lived in New York City and then joined the OSS (Office of Strategic Services).
Virginia, who had kept her emotions in check and not formed friendships during her time as a spy, fell pretty fast for Goillot. They married and he became a house husband while Virginia continued working. She retired from the CIA at age 60 (mandatory) and lived and loved with her Paul. Virginia died in 1982 and Paul died five years later.
Virginia never complained about the Patriarchy or the glass ceiling or any other thing that our whiny snowflakes are screaming about today. Raise your daughters to be like Virginia (whether they have a Cuthbert or not). We need women like her today because the wolves are at the door.
Feature photo credit: Darleen Click and Lyons Press.