Archive for October, 2012

Our 5 Historic “Bond Girls”

October 31st, 2012

The Real American “Bond Girls” in History

As the latest James Bond movie hits theaters on November 9th, the National Women’s History Museum wanted to recognize some incredible female spies throughout American history. Here’s our list of women that we believe Bond would have wished were his “Bond girls”.

Historic “Bond Girl” #1

Who: “Agent 355”
During the Revolutionary War
Skills: Concealing her identity for over 230 years
About: She is considered by intelligence historians to be America’s first female undercover operations officer. It is speculated that “355” came from a wealthy New York Tory family that would have allowed her access to British forces operating nearby. Abraham Woodhull, speculated head of the Culper Ring spy organization, wrote that she “hath been ever serviceable to this correspondence” and could “outwit them all.” She was given the name “355,” which was the code-number for “lady” from the encryption code system used by the Culper Ring. While defending against the British in and around New York, George Washington came to rely heavily on the information she supplied him. “355” is even credited for helping uncover the treasonous Benedict Arnold-John André plot that eventually led to André’s demise. Agent 355 is heralded as one of the best intelligence officers because her identity is still unknown to us today after almost 230 years.

Historic “Bond Girl” #2

Who: Mary Elizabeth Bowser
: The Civil War
Skills: Deception, disguise, and a photographic memory
About: Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born a slave to the Van Lew family in Richmond, Virginia. Later emancipated by Elizabeth Van Lew in 1851, Bowser stayed with the Van Lew household. When the Civil War broke out, Van Lew created an elaborate Union spy ring in the Confederate capital. She positioned Bowser under the name of “Ellen Bond” in the household of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He assumed Bowser was illiterate and left important dispatches on his desk in plain view.  She memorized Davis’ important documents and passed the information along to Elizabeth, who in turn distributed it to Union officers. While Elizabeth Van Lew gained substantial credit for her spying, Bowser was never compensated nor recognized by the Union army.

Historic “Bond Girl” #3

Who: Anna Wagner Keichline
World War I
Skills: Inventor, architect, jack-of-all-trades with a taste for danger
About: What couldn’t Anna Wagner Keichline do? She went to school for architecture and became the first woman to practice as one in the state of Pennsylvania. While at school she was also a class officer, member of the drama club and on the women’s basketball team. And she was an inventor and would, over course of her lifetime, receive seven patents. If that was not impressive enough, in 1918 Keichline volunteered for the US Army. She was assigned as a Special Agent in the Military Intelligence Division in Washington, D.C. When Keichline felt that her menial research and report-generating tasks were not satisfying enough, she informed Captain Harry Taylor of the US Military Intelligence Division that she deserved more. She wrote to him declaring that she was “physically somewhat stronger than the average. Might add that I can operate and take care of a car…should you deem it advisable to give me something more difficult or…dangerous, I should much prefer it.” What Keichline did exactly with intelligence-gathering remains a mystery to this day.

Historic “Bond Girl” #4

Who: Virginia Hall
World War II
Skills: The original “guerrilla girl” and mistress of disguise
About: Virginia Hall dreamed of working for the US Foreign Service, especially after spending much of her youth traveling around France, Germany and Austria. Unfortunately a hunting accident resulted in the loss of part of her lower leg as well as her chances. A new opportunity for Hall to become involved in foreign affairs came during World War II. Living abroad at the time, she became a Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Britain and Spain. When she went back in the United States in 1944, Hall joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), requesting to be assigned to occupied France. Her wish was granted and she assisted occupied France in transporting supplies, often disguised as an old, limping peasant woman. She also directed guerrilla missions targeting German communication and transportation lines. For her services during the war, she was granted the Distinguished Service Cross, the only one awarded to a civilian woman in World War II.

Historic “Bond Girl” #5

Who: Marlene Dietrich
World War II
Skills: Propaganda siren of song
About: Marlene Dietrich first gained fame as a singer and actress when she was living in Berlin. Lured to the US by Paramount Pictures, Dietrich moved to California and eventually became a US citizen in 1939.  When World War II broke out, Dietrich decided to use her acting and singing skills to the United States’ advantage. Volunteering in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1944, she worked with the US government to record popular songs in German as part of their musical propaganda unit. These were sent to war-weary German troops as part of psychological warfare to lower their morale. Dietrich also entertained frontline Allied troops throughout the war, often placing herself in danger.

Which ones do you think Bond would have recruited?

View these and other incredible women in our online exhibit: “Clandestine Women: The Untold Stories of Women in Espionage.” Link here:

Historical Women Who Rocked: Myers-Briggs

October 18th, 2012

Did you ever take the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality test growing up? Did you know that the researchers who gave the world the MBTI (which by the way happens to be one of the most popular personality tests in the world), were not only women but also mother and daughter? There’s something you don’t learn in history textbooks everyday!

Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs worked together to create the system to measure psychological  preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. The mother-daughter duo based much of their research on psychologist Carl Jung’s typological theories published in his book, “Psychological Types” in 1921.

The three original pairs of preferences in Jung’s typology are Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, and Thinking and Feeling. After studying them, Briggs Myers added a fourth pair, Judging and Perceiving.

  • Extraversion or Introversion: refers to where and how one places his or her efforts in the world – with others in the outer world or alone in the inner world
  • Sensing or Intuition: refers to how one takes in information – through five senses or through patterns
  • Thinking or Feeling: refers to decision making – objectively or personally
  • Judging or Perceiving: refers to how one lives and interaction with outer world – structured or flexible

Do you know which type you belong to? Find out here:


New Facebook Group Supports Malala Yousafzai

October 17th, 2012

A new group on Facebook has sprung up in support of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year old Pakistanian activist who was gunned down last week by members of the Taliban. The group is called #GIRLWITHABOOK and its members stand in solidarity with Malala and other girls around the world who are fighting for their education. Group members take photos of themselves with books they are currently reading and post them on Facebook.

Here’s the Museum’s submission:

NWHM supports Malala and sends its sincere thoughts and well wishes as she makes her recovery. Click here to learn more about this awesome Facebook group!

“Marriage ‘Crisis’ In the Jazz Age:” A Lecture by Dr. Nancy Cott on October 24, 2012

October 15th, 2012

The National Women’s History Museum and The Wilson Center

invite you to a lecture in the series:

The Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Women’s History

“Marriage ‘Crisis’ in the Jazz Age”

Dr. Nancy Cott

Harvard University

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 – Lecture, 4-5:30 p.m. – Flom Auditorium, 6th Floor

Reception, 5:30-6 p.m., Sixth Floor Dining Room

Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20004

This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.

Please respond with acceptances only to

Please allow time to go through building security.

Directions to the Wilson Center are available at:

Women Making History: Martha Raddatz

October 15th, 2012

Last Thursday, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz became the third woman to moderate the fourth female-led vice presidential debate.  She received glowing reviews from many news sources, who have been calling her the winner of the night for asking tough questions, pressing the candidates to answer them, and keeping both Biden and Ryan in check.  How do you think she did?  What was your favorite Raddatz moment of the night?

Tomorrow, be sure to watch as Candy Crowley becomes the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate.

Malala Yousafzai: A Young and Brave Girl and an Inspiration to NWHM

October 11th, 2012

The staff at NWHM sends its heartfelt thoughts to the family of Malala Yousafzai, the  14-yeard old Pakistani activist, who was brutally shot in her head and neck by Taliban extremists on her journey home aboard a school bus on Tuesday afternoon. Malala is currently being treated at the  Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology critical care unit in Rawalpindi.

Since age 11, Malala has used her voice to speak out against the increasingly repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, which has sought (among a litany of other repressive measures) to ban education for women. Malala began to chronicle her experiences living under the regime on a blog produced by BBC’s Urdu-language service back in 2009. She described having to wear plain clothes, so as not to bring any attention to herself and run the risk of being exposed for attending school.  She and other girls  would “hid our books under our shawls,” she wrote. The Taliban eventually forced the closure of her school and she was forced to stay home and forgo her education.

Last year, Malala was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She was praised for her courageousness in speaking up for girls’ educational rights. She was also awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

NWHM honors Malala Yousafzai. Our thoughts are with her and her family. We are inspired both by her fearlessness and her remarkable story.

Women Making History: Christina Aguilera

October 9th, 2012

Throughout her career, Christina Aguilera has dedicated herself to philanthropy.  She has served as a celebrity spokesperson for many causes ranging from Lifetime Television’s End Violence Against Women campaign to Rock the Vote to the MAC AIDS Fund.  Last week, the US State Department honored Aguilera with the George McGovern Leadership Award for her work as a United Nations World Food Programme Ambassador Against Hunger and with Yum! Brands’ World Hunger Relief campaign, helping to raise $115 million so far in the fight to end world hunger.

View the full article here.
Watch a clip of the ceremony here.