Press Release


March 26, 2002: "Clandestine Women: The Untold Stories of Women in Espionage" Documents Women's History in the Undercover World

ARLINGTION, VA-An exhibition featuring women who have been involved in espionage activities spanning the years from General Washington through the Cold War opens today at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The National Women's History Museum will officially open its exhibition with an evening event that will include a preview of the exhibit and an overview of women's roles in the spy business by guest curator Linda McCarthy, who served for more than 20 years in the CIA and was the founding curator of the CIA Exhibit Center.

The exhibit marks the 60th anniversary of America's first centralized intelligence service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), founded in 1942. The OSS included 4,500 women in its ranks, including Julia Child before her career as a famous chef, and Baltimore native Virginia Hall, the first female civilian to receive this country's second highest military award for bravery.

"Each story about the intelligence work of Harriett Tubman, Sacagawea, Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker, and other remarkable women represented in this exhibition is individually fascinating and enlightening," said Susan Jollie, president of the National Women's History Museum. The accomplishments of some of these women who worked in spy trade have been individually documented; however, this exhibition is believed to be the first time that a museum has collected the stories and tools used by these women within one exhibition. "This is a small but important exhibit that proves real stories from our history can be far more interesting than the stereotype of a spy drawn from fiction or movies," said Jollie.

"All Americans can learn and draw inspiration from these courageous women, some of whom we recognize for their role in popular culture," said Linda McCarthy, guest curator. "With this exhibition we hope to show another dimension of their lives, but most importantly, to honor the contributions of all women who have performed intelligence services that help preserve the nation's security."

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • The story of "355" (code for "woman" in her operation) who provided George Washington with vital intelligence information during the Revolutionary War, and helped expose Benedict Arnold's treason.

  • A look at how the young Shoshone, Sacagawea, traveled across the wilderness acting as a guide and translator for the Lewis and Clark expedition.

  • The story of Harriet Tubman's work with the Underground Railroad and how escaping slaves were able to communicate in the open by using quilts and songs.

  • Objects from the spy trade, including a burial tube, specialized weapons, an audio-surveillance "bug," a subminiature camera, representative freedom quilts, the uniform of a female OSS operative, among other tools, devices and memorabilia.

  • A photographic tribute to women who served the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

The exhibition will be open through December 2002, and is located at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial near the main entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. Hours for the exhibition are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 1 through March 31, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., April 1 through September 30.

The National Women's History Museum researches, collects, and exhibits the contributions of women to the social, economic and political life of the nation in a context of world history. The museum uses permanent and traveling exhibits, its CyberMuseum, educational programs, and outreach efforts to communicate the breadth of women's experiences and accomplishments to the widest possible audience.