Virginia Hall

Virginia Hall

Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland, USA
Death 8 Jul 1982 (aged 76)
Rockland, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Burial Pikesville, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
Plot Location:Groveland Section:545 Plot:4
Memorial ID 14354228 · View Source
Suggest Edits

World War II Spy. She received notoriety as an American performing heroic acts for the Allied Armies, first for Britain then for the United States. She worked for British Special Operations starting in 1941 at Lyon, France. In 1942 the head of the Nazi Gestapo, Klaus Barbie, the “Lyon's Butcher,” ordered wanted posters with her face in hope of capturing “the limping lady.” She was considered the most dangerous of all Allied spies. She escaped to Spain, in a three-day journey in heavy snow over the Pyrenees Mountains. As a young lady, she accidentally gave herself a gunshot wound in the foot, which got infected, thus her leg was amputated below the knee. She did this 50-mile journey using a heavy wooden prosthetic leg. While in France, she had a network of 1,500 resistance fighters helping her to destroy bridges or railroads. Her second trip to France was working for the United States for the American Office of Strategic Services. In France from 1944 to 1945, this was even more successful than her first for Britain. She had developed numerous outfits to hide her identity. A make-up artist helped her to change into an elderly crippled lady with bad teeth. She had a dozen alias names. Receiving the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945, she was the most highly decorated female civilian during World War II. In 1943 she was made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire and given honors in France also. Her heroic actions were recognized again on the 100th anniversary of her birth date at the British and French Embassies in Washington, D.C. After the war, she worked for the CIA from a desk mainly in the Special Activities Division but helping those behind the Iron Curtain. In 1951 she married OSS agent Paul Goillot, who she had met during the war in France. The couple continued to work together at the CIA. She was at the CIA for 15 years taking mandatory retirement in 1966, but never spoke publicly of her deeds during the war. Even after her death, her story was confined to the intelligence community. She was the daughter of a well-to-do Baltimore family. After attending Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Barnard College in New York City, she pursued additional studies in Europe. She had a gift for languages and loved adventure. She became a clerk at the United States Embassy in Warsaw, Poland in hopes that someday she would be a diplomat. Her next assignment was in Ismir Turkey. It was here she had the hunting accident that caused the amputation of her left lower leg. This followed with an assignment in Venice, Italy, and while in Venice, she learned that her amputation caused her to be rejected from becoming a diplomat, which was her professional goal. At the start of World War II, she was in France and joined the ambulance corps. She traveled from France through Spain to reach England to join the British Special Operations, thus the beginning of her “spy days.” Recently, the CIA training hall was named The Virginia Hall Expeditionary Center. A retired CIA officer, Craig Gralley, has written a book about her, “Hall of Mirrors.” In 2005 “The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy” by Judith Pearson was released. “The Spy with the Wooden Leg: The Story of Virginia Hall” was a biography written by Nancy Polette in 2012. “Woman of No Importance” was written by Sonia Purnell in 2019 with a movie by the same name due to be released the same year. In 2019 she was posthumously inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.

Bio by: Linda Davis

Family Members




How famous was Virginia Hall?

Current rating:

19 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Kit and Morgan Benson
  • Added: 21 May 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial 14354228
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Virginia Hall (6 Apr 1906–8 Jul 1982), Find a Grave Memorial no. 14354228, citing Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .