Virginia was a Spy

Who would think milking cows and goats would be the perfect training for a World War II spy?

Virginia Hall—that’s who!

Hall, an American, risked her life to work as a spy for the Allied forces. First, she posed as an American reporter writing about life in wartime France. But after her success landed her on the German Nazi’s most-wanted list, Hall adopted a new identity—an elderly milkmaid who sold homemade cheese to the Nazis while listening in on their secrets.

Virginia did all this despite having a wooden leg.

Virginia was a Spy is the story of this amazing woman, who helped turn the tide of World War II.

Teaching Resources

The Who Behind World War II: A Lesson in Biographies (a Powerpoint in PDF Format)

The Who Behind World War II: A  Lesson in Biographies (teachers’ guide)

The Who Behind World War II: A Lesson in Biographies (student packet)

Virginia Hall: Spy Extraordinaire: A Study  of Character Traits  (a Powerpoint in PDF Format)

Virginia Hall, Quite a Character: A Lesson in Character Traits

Sugar and Spice and Everything Spies: Female Spies in World War II (a PowerPoint in PDF format)

Virginia Was a Spy
illustration copyright Gary Kelley. Reprinted from Virginia Was a Spy by Catherine Urdahl, illustrated by Gary Kelley, and published by Creative Editions, 2020.

Further Reading

Atwood, Kathryn J., Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011.

McIntosh, Elizabeth P., Women of the OSS: Sisterhood of Spies. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1998.

Mitchell, Don, The Lady is a Spy: Virginia Hall, World War II Hero of the French Resistance. New York: Scholastic, 2019.

Pearson, Judith L., Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

Polette, Nancy, The Spy with the Wooden Leg: The Story of Virginia Hall. St. Paul, Minnesota: Alma Little, 2012.

Purnell, Sonia. A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. New York: Viking Press, 2019.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where Virginia Hall worked after World War II, offers articles on Virginia’s life and wartime contributions. Visit and look for “Spotlight on Women’s History: Virginia Hall,” March 30, 2012, and “Virginia Hall: The Courage and Daring of the Limping Lady,” Oct. 8, 2015. Click on the CIA site’s Spy Kids tab for fun information on being a spy, as well as spy gadgets and activities.

The National Archives catalogue contains Virginia’s wartime activity reports, various images, and other information from her time in the Office of Strategic Services—America’s World War II undercover organization. Visit

Virginia Was a Spy

written by Catherine Urdahl
illustrated by Gary Kelley
Creative Editions, 2020

Buy the Book