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945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
The Orlin Russell Corey Memorial Lecture
In Partnership with the Churchill Society of New Orleans
Sonia Purnell Presents “A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II”
5:00 p.m. Reception | 6:00 p.m. Presentation | 7:00 p.m. Book Signing
The Institute for the Study of War and Democracy, in partnership with the Churchill Society of New Orleans, is delighted to host Sonia Purnell, noted biographer, to discuss her latest work A Woman of No Importance, the remarkable tale of one of the least known heroines of World War II.
In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her."
The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill's "Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare." She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and—despite her prosthetic leg—helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.
Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.
Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall, an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.
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The reception and presentation are free and open to the public, and brought to you by the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy and the Churchill Society of New Orleans. To register, please call 504-528-1944 x 412.
About the Author
Sonia Purnell is a biographer and journalist who has worked at The Economist, The Telegraph, and The Sunday Times. Her book Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill (published as First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill in the United Kingdom) was chosen as a book of the year by The Telegraph and The Independent, and was a finalist for the Plutarch Award. Her first book, Just Boris: The Irresistable Rise of a Political Celebrity, was longlisted for the Orwell prize.