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Sisterhood of Spies

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  433 ratings  ·  60 reviews
America's first female secret agents were debutantes, Ivy Leaguers, wives of wealthy men, and movie stars. Bravely answering their country's call, they risked their lives in daring missions to help the Allied cause. Told here for the first time, these breathtaking stories reveal the bravery of "Code-Name Cynthia", "The Limping Lady", "Maria", and other female legends of es ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 9th 1999 by Dell (first published 1998)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  433 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the ultimate version for this book. I kind of like the unpretentious, dry but detailed writing. It fits the extraordinary but hard nosed exploits of these women perfectly. No unnecessarily excessive enthusiastic chorus of praise by McIntosh wich would diminish these women's heroic deeds, by making them sound fabulous, but slightly to good to be true to believe!
A.L. Sowards
Probably about 3.5 stars.

What I liked: There were some gripping true stories that I hadn’t heard before. The author served in OSS during WWII, so she knew her subject. The book was arranged by area rather than strictly by chronology, and that organization worked well for this project. I also liked that she didn’t wait until the epilogue to say what happened to the women she wrote about. Instead, she explained what happened to them right after she highlighted their careers, while their stories w
There's some very interesting information in here about the formation of the OSS and particularly the women who were in it, including field agents and even a couple of celebrities like Julia Childs and Marlene Dietrich but the presentation is vapid and ponderous at best. It got to the point where I found myself skipping chapters and skimming others until I realized it was more interesting to dig this information up on Wiki. The patriotic tone may turn off a few people. And, before an Amazon trol ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating overview of women in the OSS during WWII written by a woman who was one of them. There’s enough material here for a dozen books since many of the women are mentioned in a couple of paragraphs or a chapter, and I’d like to know more. McIntosh looks how women were recruited into the OSS, often because of education and language skills, and how a number of them moved from secretarial work to working with the resistance in Western Europe, creating black propaganda in Burma, and dealing ...more
Jun 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I picked up this book for a quarter at my library's book sale. I read the introduction and it struck me that the author has exactly the same stilted writing style as Aline Countess of Romanones who wrote The Spy Wore Red and several other books about her adventures in the OSS. Then Elizabeth McIntosh actually mentions Aline in the Introduction. I almost fell off my chair when I got to page 218 where the author reveals that Aline's nickname was "Butch!" She then goes on to confirm that the comman ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Leaning toward 3.5 stars. Written in a breezy magazine-article style that I felt suited the snapshot glimpses of the many women/jobs covered over the course of the book. This isn't a comprehensive look at any one person or operation; look elsewhere for that. Appreciated this one for the interviews from the women who were featured (this was published in 1998 and I'll guess that many of those women aren't here to share their stories anymore, so am glad the author - herself employed by the OSS - to ...more
L Greyfort
Apr 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Rather entertaining story of the formation of the OSS, and in particular, the women who got involved from the start. It's lots of fun to read about people one knows, like Marlene Dietrich and Julia Child (who was in an office in the Far East; not doing Mata Hari work, but defintely carrying out duties of importance to the war effort). It's just as interesting to read of the many other, less known women who helped bring about a successful ending, through many types of work - both dangerous field ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Paul by: Old Trooper
Shelves: history
I have seen some of the negative reviews. They are entitled to their opinion. I first want to say that the date of writing of this title is 1998. That said, I believe the author recently celebrated her 100th birthday at the CIA. I look at the book as a jig-saw puzzle piece to the larger history of both military and intelligence operations of WWII (and beyond). It is non-fiction so is not intended for entertainment. I just appreciate that the author got around to saving information from the perio ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book for my community book club.

This was an interesting, compelling read. I knew about the British women who played vital roles in Bletchley Park and other places during the war, but I never had any idea that American women were just as active as their British counterparts.

The writing was a bit dry in places, but when I'd find myself getting bogged down, I'd remind myself that these were stories of real women, and not all they did was glamorous all of the time.

I'm glad I read the boo
The Library Lady
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-history
Fascinating material could have made a compelling book. Instead, McIntosh's style is so dull and prim that even the most exciting stories seem flat, merely a recitation of the facts. What a pity.
This book had such potential. I thought it was going to be about actual, boots-on-the-ground female agents, but instead, it read like a laundry list of secretaries & file clerks, and whom they married after the war. There were about 2 chapters that were interesting, but the author's inane need for including unneeded, space-filling details (like what color curtains hung in the office, or how bumpy the roads were) overshadowed these chapters too. To me, this book devolved into how many women c ...more
Pam Venne
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sam Reeves
Recommended to Pam by: Sam Reeves
Shelves: history, women, military
Reading like a historical documentary McIntosh recreates the endeavors of the women of the OSS. I had not realized how widely used, nor how immensely talented and educated some of the women were. A number of them were recruited from embassies, military, east coast universities and friends of friends. Most all were multi-lingual and were tasked with some of the world's most intimate secrets at the time.

A number were famous names I recognized, even today!

Thanks to the author, Elizabeth McIntosh,
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: wwii-espionage
An interesting series of subjects, though it didn't always sustain interest. The author focused on some of the more salacious details at the outset, but followed up with occasional curiosities that didn't often lead to anything. While the contributions of general administrative staff are commendable, devoting paragraphs to several of them with very similar details made it feel as though the narrative had lost focus at times. However, the more noteworthy missions and research projects were fascin ...more
Lena Donan
Kus som sa podučila. A kus aj sa zmiatla. Veľa informácii, ale za utriedenie to stojí a ako inšpirácia rozhodne vie poslúžiť.
Niekto síce obviňuje z prílišného "patriotizmu", "idealizmu" a pánboh vie čoho ešte, ale na každom čitateľovi záleží, čo si vyberie, čo hľadá a ako použije to, čo nájde.
Ja som dostala, čo som hľadala... a možno aj viac.
Joan VunCannon
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was very good. So many ways that women helped in the war effort. They were brave and inventive. Well worth reading.
Gail Lance-Klemenev
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good book. Too bad high school history did not expand on this. It was interesting.
Jeanie Wallenstein
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Totally cool book about the women in the OSS during WWII.
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What promised to be a fascinating story of intrigue ended up being a laundry list of girls who got rides home in the General William Donovan's limo, typists, and file clerks, whom we are assured were doing very important work, interspersed with some stories of agents in the field. I don't doubt that everyone involved was doing an crucial job, just the efficaciousness of mentioning every single woman who worked for the OSS. This book that I expected to revere the work of women begins with a biogr ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Written more akin to what I imagine an intelligence report to be like or a new article, but the author was a journalist and worked for the OSS. Interesting and amazing stories of the dawning of modern intelligence gathering in US and the World War II era. Though women's roles and contributions are the focus of the book; McIntosh's insight to the entire intel community of the day paints additional color to one of the most globally affecting periods in human history. The reader is introduced to wo ...more
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a 3.5-ish to a 4.

First things first: McIntosh is not a great writer. The book is oddly organized, and oddly, given the subject matter, quite often dry. I found myself frequently thinking that I would rather watch interviews with the women of her book instead of having to read her writing.

That said, this book is a very useful resource for trying to get the sense of the OSS and what life was like for females in the organization. There's the usual sexism that one might expect them to encoun
Bill Wehrmacher
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
My daughter gives me four presents each Christmas. One, I want. One I need. One to wear, and one to read. This year's something to read was a pint mason jar filled with 52 curled strips of paper, each with a subject for which I was to choose a book. The first strip was "Read something about an interesting woman." That is how I came to read Sisterhood of Spies.

I began by choosing a shortish chapter in the middle of the book to get a taste. It seems to be a collection of stories about women and ev
Jane Hanser
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. If you're expecting a read like a spy novel, check yourself. This is a mix of history plus interviews, done by the author herself.

Some Goodreads reviewers have complained at the litany of women whose exploits were described. For sure, some women’s stories are told in vivid detail, while others’ exploits are mentioned but briefly. It was wearing at times, particularly toward the end of the book when the topic turned to the China/Japan/Burma front where, by the way, Julia McWil
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives amazing empowerment to women. The beginning stages of OSS depended largely on a newer strategy than previously held with spying. Women came from all walks of life and took charge of the new opportunities to make a difference. Each woman noted in this book gave everything they had willingly and took risks unimaginable to the women of the era. From simple coding and support in the offices of a newly forming branch of warfare to the brave and life endangering risks of spying in enem ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's interesting, personal, and at times down-right exciting -- because we know that all these women are real. McIntosh talks about women who took both active, supportive, and tactical roles; she acknowledges the challenges they faced, both during and after the war. I was inspired by the stories about daring women like Amy Thorpe, who seduced a French aide (and later married him) and stole French naval codes; Barbara Lauwers Podoski, who undermined enemy troops and got 600 Czechs to surrender; a ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, nonfiction
Awhile back I went onto a spy-spree with my book choices at the library. This one seemed so promising because it focused on the amazing women who have served in the intelligence community, mostly during WWII. I just couldn't get into this book though. The chapters didn't really flow and they bounced from one woman to another without any clear indication of the commonalities that put them in the same chapter. Plus it was much too focused on genealogy of some woman whose husband worked at these fi ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone; autobiography; spycraft
Elizabeth McIntosh covers a wide range of jobs and abilities that women had and exhibited during WWII when the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) existed. Other than her own experiences, she does not give details other than one or two instances.

Her style did not draw me in until she started talking in the first person - she was one of the women involved in the OSS, but her post was in India and China. I think the book might have kept my interest more if she had interspersed her experiences and
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, women can do everything! From filing (Julia McWilliams (Childs) who had some very interesting ways to keep it lively, to those who invented background stories for agents, to others who led prisoners through the wilds of Hungary into Russia and safety. A great book that reads like interesting newspaper articles detailing lives of some of the 4,000 women who worked in the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) during WWII and beyond. Most were college grads, had traveled in Europ ...more
Andrea Haw
Aug 09, 2007 rated it liked it
I looked through this book some time ago, which got me started on books by the Countess Ramonones. The fact that it's not one big long story makes for "start and stop" kind of reading, which I don't really like. There are just individual interviews in it, but it's very interesting. I've actually been thinking of writing a WWII spy novel, so this is giving me some ideas.

Finished this some time ago, but it took a while. Interesting, but would've been better if it had more of a chronological or geo
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-ww2
Loved the book! Gave a look into the lives of women who joined the war effort as part of the OSS. They were forward thinking women ahead of their time. Thank you ladies for your service.

My favorite line was when the author discuss traveling to China from India with the future French Chef herself, Julia McWilliams Child: "I flew over the Hump in a storm-tossed flight with the imperturbable Julia McWilliams, who calmly read a read a book while all the rest of us were preparing to die."
Irene Thomas
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am interested in WWII history, especially the women who were instrumental in winning the war. Finally, this year the women of the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, were awarded long-overdue medals for their work. This is part of their story. I passed this on to another woman, equally as interested. This is an important piece of history. An enjoyable read - not a struggle to get through it at all. I enjoyed reading it!
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