War History: Ten Women Working for the Enemy

Women were not generally accepted within the battlefields of war history yet they played vital roles in the two major war efforts as well were key persons in a number of conflicts. While there were women hailed as war heroes, there were also a number who are shamefully remembered for being affiliated with the “bad guys”.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 1: Ann Bates

Ann was a simple lady working as a schoolteacher in Philadelphia before American Revolution broke out. However, when British-American tensions broke into an all-out-war, she sought to help the loyalist troops by becoming a spy and was a very good one at that.

Ann joined the espionage network of Sir Henry Clinton to whom her husband was also under as a soldier. She utilized her weaponry knowledge and adopted the disguise of a peddler. She wandered around the American troops selling them her wares. Unknown to them, she was eyeing their movements and reporting back to Sir Clinton’s men whatever information she could get hold of.

Ann was eventually rounded up by the American soldiers “on suspicion”. Though she was released after, she complained about the whole thing to the point of claiming that the woman who searched her up stole her shoe buckles which were made of silver. Ann went on being a loyalist spy until 1780. Her greatest contribution to the loyalist forces was, perhaps, the information she gave out about the movement of the American troops in Rhode Island which resulted to the latter’s retreat from the said area.

When American Revolution ended, Ann moved to England where she received a small pension for the service she rendered to the Crown.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 2: Antonia Ford

Antonia Ford was more than a lady blessed with an aristocratic life in Fairfax, Virginia during the American Civil War — she was also a volunteer Confederate spy during the said conflict. She entertained Union officers at Fairfax Station at the same time gleaning secretly whatever information she could from them.

The documents – laden with information about Union troop strength and location – Antonia Ford passed on to Confederate Brigadier General Jeb Stuart and Confederate Army Colonel John S. Mosby proved to be so valuable that the former named her his aide-de-camp, French for field assistant.

That letter incriminated Ford of her war role and got her arrested and handed to Major Joseph Willard, the town’s acting marshal. She was taken further down south but returned only to be arrested for the second time. Willard campaigned for her release as he was in love with the volunteer Confederate spy. The two, eventually, decided to renounce whatever loyalties they had — he quit the army and divorced his first wife while she stopped spying for the South. They got married. Three children and seven years later, Antonia Ford died. It was said that her imprisonment had caused her illness that led to her death.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 3: Malinda Blalock

Malinda Blalock’s story is quite unique. While she was a Unionist at heart, she started her American Civil War military career as a Confederate and a soldier at that.

Malinda was born and grew up in North Carolina. When the American Civil War broke out, she was a Union sympathizer. As North Carolina was a Confederate state, Malinda feared her husband was going to be drafted for the Confederate Army. Because of that, she devised a plan — he would join the Confederates but later on desert his post in Virginia. Unknown to her husband, Malinda herself joined the army by putting on the guise of a man and taking the identity of a Sam Blalock, supposed brother of her own husband.

Later on, she was able to locate her husband and the two served the army until fighting broke out. While the latter was able to escape without getting injured, Malinda sustained a shoulder wound from a bullet that struck her and had to be taken to a medical facility for surgery where her identity was discovered by the surgeon who took care of her.

While sources are not clear if whether that said surgeon reported Malinda’s true identity or decided to keep it a secret allowing Blalock to come out clean later on, the couple still had the strong intention of deserting the Confederate. So, Malinda’s husband rolled on around poisoned sumac then complained to the doctors of the camp where they were in. The doctors, thinking he had gotten smallpox, promptly discharged him from service.

The two were able to make their way into Union territory and Malinda joined the Union army as a female guerrilla fighter.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 4: Rose Greenhow

Perhaps the most celebrated female spy of the Confederates during the American Civil War, Rose Greenhow used her connections and her being a renowned Washington hostess to her advantage while spying for the South.

She climbed her way up the hierarchy of the Union circle all the while taking whatever useful information she could get from its high-ranking officers. Because of her being well connected, Greenhow’s reports – mostly about the Union’s defense of the capital and the troops’ movements – to the Confederate were well-detailed and invaluable.

Her intel reports proved to be most vital during the First Battle of Bull Run where the Confederate Army routed the Union troops.

Eventually, Greenhow found herself within the radar of famed Irish-American detective Allan Pinkerton who had her under house arrest and later on, put inside the Capital Prison. But her unfavorable predicament did not stop Rose from continuing her spying ways. She was still able to get information out to the Confederates through cryptic messages she placed in rather very unusual places. It was even said that one time, she placed one such message into a woman’s hair bun.

Finally, Rose proved to be too much of a security risk that she was exiled to the Confederates. The latter decided to send her to Europe where she was to work as a propagandist against the Union. In 1864, Rose Greenhow got involved in boat mishap when the vessel she was riding in got attacked by a Union gunboat. The female Confederate spy was able to flee in a rowboat but never made it to land alive. She had been carrying a sizable amount of gold with her – royalties paid to her for a book she wrote – and its weight had dragged down her supposed lifesaver.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 5: Loreta Janeta Velazquez

Loreta was a Cuban by birth but went to her aunt’s home in New Orleans when she was a young girl. In was here that she finished her English education. Loreta held fascination for the lives of women soldiers like Joan of Arc, so, she was very delighted when the American Civil War broke out.

She started to copy the ways of a man, perfecting the mannerisms and buying a custom-made girdle to hide the shape of her body just so she could pass herself as one of the male specie. It was very timely that shortly after the outbreak of the civil war, her husband died in an accident. Loreta wasted no time participating in several civil war battles as Harry T. Buford. She even fought in the First Battle of Bull Run.

In her memoirs, which she later wrote, Loreta claimed that her real identity was discovered twice which led to her being a spy for the Confederates.

Nevertheless, many scholars are doubtful about her claims. But then, Loreta was able to write minute details in her memoirs, the likes which could have been only known to someone who actually participated in them.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 6: Mildred Gillars

She may not be as famous as Iva Toguri or the other women propagandists collectively known as Tokyo Rose but Mildred Gillars, an American, played her part during the Second World War as a radio propagandist for the Germans known on air as Sally and to the Allies as Axis Sally.

Mildred hailed from Ohio and was an aspiring actress. She traveled to Germany in 1934 in the hopes that she could study music in Dresden. However, she was in dire circumstances before WWII broke out. When the tensions eventually escalated to all out war, Mildred became romantically involved with the station manager of the radio station where she was working. It was this man who prompted her to be a German propagandist, someone who would undermine the morale of the Allied troops on air.


So, Axis Sally, as she became known to Allied soldiers, spewed forth hateful hype aimed at the Allies. She taunted them about the fidelity of their wives and girlfriends who they left in America to fight in the war. She also jeered the American women describing them as someone who hide in their rooms weeping for their husbands and lovers who, according to her, were sacrificed to the war by then US President Roosevelt. Furthermore, Mildred liked to go into the grim details of the various injuries and deaths of Allied servicemen during her air time.

In 1946, Mildred was brought back to the United States where she was convicted of treason and was imprisoned for twelve years. She was eventually released and became a music teacher. She died poor in 1988.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 7: Carla Costa

Carla, a simple Italian girl, was only seventeen when she became a spy for the Germans during the Second World War. Her plainness worked for her advantage as the Allies saw her as just one of the many Italian women displaced by the ongoing conflict. Unknown to them, Carla was eyeing them and eventually went on to become one of Germany’s most successful spies in Italy.

She even had the privilege of meeting Italian dictator Benito Mussolini face-to-face who told her that if all Italian women were just like her, then, “we’d win this damnable war”.

But Carla’s spying days were cut short when her partner, Mario Martinelli, got caught and sold her out to his captors. carla pretended not to know the man and refused to cooperate with her jailers. Unfortunately for her, she had in her possession a silk handkerchief which all spies for Nazi Germany were given. On that said piece of cloth was written in German “Member of the Army. Take to Air Force Headquarters”, a secret note only seen if the handkerchief was placed over a flame for thirty minutes.

The Allies knew about this and used it to incriminate her. Mario was executed by firing squad and Carla was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Nevertheless, after WWII ended, Carla was released by the Italian government.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 8: Yoshiko Kawashima


Yoshiko was born a princess to China’s Manchu people but was given by her father to a friend, Naniwa Kawashima, a Japanese at eight as a sign of their friendship.

Yoshiko went on to live a bohemian life in Tokyo after a failed arranged marriage with a Mongol prince. Outgrowing that way of living, she traveled extensively throughout the globe eventually ending up in Shanghai in 1928 where Japanese General Takayoshi Tanaka took her under his wing believing that she would one day prove useful to him as a spy.

Yoshiko went on to become a famed espionage agent with the name Eastern Jewel. Her first assignment had been to create a city-wide disturbance in Shanghai which would give the Japanese an excuse to invade the said city. Yes, forces were really able to enter the city but then, diplomatic pressure forced them to abandon the original plan and they pulled out.


Later on, Yoshiko used a series of fake assassination attempts to coax former Qing emperor Pu Yi to take the post as ruler of the newly formed Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo.

When WWII ended, Yoshiko changed her name and went into hiding. The Chinese caught her on November of 1945 and after being imprisoned for three years, she was executed as a traitor.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 9: Hanna Reitsch

Hanna served Nazi Germany as a test pilot. She started working for the German Luftwaffe 1937 and became one of the only six women who were able to fly a war plane in Germany during the Second World War.

She eventually went on to receive several medals from the Nazis. Her military decorations included an Iron Cross (Second Class) given because of her efforts in defeating the barrage balloons over London. She was also awarded an Iron Cross (First Class) after she crash landed aboard a  Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet.

Hanna was not only a well-known pilot Germany, she was famed throughout the globe as well. Before the war broke out, she often toured to other countries and participated in various air displays.

After WWII ended, Hanna was among those questioned about the death of the notorious German Fuehrer as she was one of the select people who visited him in his bunker in his last days. She was even accused briefly of sneaking Hitler out from his bunker on to her plane.


She, along with her brother Kurt, were the only ones to surviving members of their immediate family after WWII. Their father, sensing the coming defeat of the Nazis and fearing the incoming Red Army, killed the five other members of his household before killing himself.

Ten Women Working for the Enemy 10: Violette Morris

Violette was a celebrated French lady driver who went on to serve as a Red Cross ambulance driver during WWI’s Battle of Verdun. Before racing took her fancy, Violette was a champion athlete excelling in sports such as swimming, boxing, football, running and weightlifting. However, because of her homosexual lifestyle, she was refused the license to take part in the  1928 Olympics.

So, she became a racer going as far as undergoing a double mastectomy just to make sure her breasts did not obstruct her from the wheel and preventing her from driving fast.

Hitler, finding out about her predicament, invited her to be his guest shortly before the Berlin Olympics. Upon her return to Paris, Violette wasn’t only a Nazi spy, she was also a torturer for the Gestapo and was even given the moniker “the hyena of the Gestapo” by the French Resistance Movement.

London dispatched commandos to have Violette killed. She was assassinated while she was behind the wheel of her own car.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE