Sunday, July 20, 2014

Top Five Real (Badass) Female Spies

With: Pema Donyo

You think James Bond and Jason Bourne get all the fun and glory? Not while these amazing agents were around. These real historical figures lived through spy plots even better than what you see in the movies. The upcoming romantic suspense, THE INNOCENT ASSASSINS, features a badass female spy, Jane Lu. Her heroes include some of the women listed below. Their lives were filled with sex, intrigue, and a whole lot of adventure.

(1) Mata Hari: Flamboyant and fearless, the spy known as “Mata Hari” was born Margaretha Zelle. While working as a burlesque dancer, Zelle became a spy for France in German-occupied Belgium. She was willing to appear virtually nude during her public dances, allowing her to entertain officers and engage in espionage. Rumors swirled that she fed information to German officers about activities of the Allies. After accusing her of being a double agent, French authorities ordered her execution. According to an eyewitness on the day of her execution, she refused to wear a blindfold and blew a kiss to the firing squad soldiers – talk about sass.

(2) Nancy Morgan Hart: Don’t mess with Morgan. The feisty figure is best known for holding six British soldiers at gunpoint and defeating them all single-handedly. The British soldiers had killed one of her turkeys and commanded her to cook it for them while they waited in her house. While they were distracted, she started to sneak out their guns through a hole in the wall. Once they saw her, she held up one of their guns and turned it on them. During the Revolutionary War while her husband was away fighting, she regularly disguised herself as a man and entered British camps to gain information about battle plans. Gender roles? Hart had never heard of them.

(3) Amy Elizabeth "Betty" Pack: Codename? Cynthia. Methods? Unorthodox. Controversial? Definitely. Much of Pack’s information was acquired from promiscuity. She would sleep with high-ranking officials (or those close to high-ranking
officials) in order to secure information.  During one mission, Britain informed her they would like to have French codebooks. She chose the direct approach – burglary. While trying to crack open the safe with her lover, it was taking longer than they’d anticipated. Without warning, she got up and started removing her clothes. She convinced her lover to do the same. Within seconds, a watchman came into the room. He apologized for interrupting them, and left the room. Betty’s sixth sense was incredible, and she was able to open the safe and snatch the codebooks. 

(4) Yoshiko Kawashima: While born a Manchu princess, Kawashima paid no attention to her birth. She was raised in Japan and spied for the Japanese government while living in China. With her close ties to Chinese royalty, she was able to learn military secrets and convince the Chinese royals to support Japanese causes. She became an officer in the Manchuko Imperial army and led her own cavalry force into war. Oh yeah, and she regularly dressed up in men’s clothing and guys found her attractive anyway. Trailblazing pants in Eastern Asia and standing up for a woman’s place in the battlefield.

(5) Sarah Emma Edmonds: Or Franklin Thompson. Or Bridget O’Shea. Or Charles Mayberry. Or Cuff. A master of disguise, Edmonds enlisted in the Civil War disguised as a man. Eventually, she served as a spy for the Union Army. Traveling into Confederate camps required different disguises, and she knew how to pull them off. Once, she covered her skin in silver nitrate, put on a black wig, and told everyone she met in the Confederacy that she was a black man named Cuff. She also disguised herself as an Irish peddler and Southern sympathizer Charles Mayberry. As per true Civil War badass tradition, Edmonds was never caught in any of her disguises.

Read more about another badass female spy…


There are three rules to staying an assassin at the corporation of Covert Operatives: (1) your parents must be deceased, (2) your contracts must remain confidential, and (3) you must be under the age of eighteen.

After a murder mission goes awry a month before her eighteenth birthday, Covert Operatives assassin Jane Lu finds herself caught by the federal government and forced to spy for the CIA while remaining in Covert Operatives. Once her spying mission is over, she will be allowed to live a civilian life without facing criminal consequences—a life she’s only dreamed of having.

As Jane leaks information to the CIA, she uncovers secrets with enough power to both destroy Covert Operatives and her own boyfriend, Adrian King, who’s next in line to be CEO of the company. When her identity as a double agent for the CIA is discovered within Covert Operatives, she must decide where her allegiance, and her heart, truly lies.

Rough cloth slid across my face and pulled down against my shoulders. I screamed. Someone yanked my wrists behind my back and tied them together with coarse rope. Another set of hands bound my legs. How many were there?

I struggled to make contact with a body, swerving from side to side with wild abandon in spite of my inability to see anything. What worried me most weren’t the people trapping my body or the sudden needle injected into my neck which slowed my thoughts and faded away my consciousness.

It was the voice next to my ear—cold, hard, and determined.

“You’re right on time,” Adrian whispered.

Freezing ice water snapped my eyes open.

I blinked away the unconscious haze, my hair and face dripping from the unwelcome drench. The first thing I noticed was the boardroom, similar to the ones I negotiated contracts in. But there was no contract here—only a long, empty rectangular table and looming executives and agents on either side.

In front of me stood Adrian, his expression unreadable as he studied me.

“I tried to stop you.” His voice reminded me of the cold water dripping from my clothes. “I warned you.”

“By hiring assassins to scare me? I thought you knew me better. Nothing scares me.”

“Death should.”

“You know I never wanted to be…” I swallowed hard. “This.”

“I changed Covert Operatives for you.” Emotion leaked into his voice, brimming with frustration. “I tried to give you what you wanted.”

“And force others against their will to work for CO their entire life?” I spat. “I think not.”

“When did you switch sides?”

“When I was arrested, Adrian. It was after our mission went wrong. The CIA gave me a choice. Go to prison and face the death sentence or work for them.”

He gritted his teeth. “The CIA? You’re afraid of the CIA? You know as well as I do CO can keep you away from them. I can keep you away from them.”

I glared at him. “And hide away for the rest of my life?”

His shoulders stiffened. “No one would be hiding.”

“I want a life removed from murder. The CO job was always temporary! It was never what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” I averted my gaze. “Don’t you know there’s only one way this can possibly end? Kill me or let me go.”

Pema Donyo is a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a rising sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she’s still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and… college. 

Her debut novel, The Innocent Assassins, is signed for publication with Astraea Press in June 2014. Catch up with her latest release information or writerly musings on her blog.


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