Wise Gals: The Spies Who Built the CIA and Changed the Future of Espionage (Hardcover)
Available for Pre-Order (Publication Dates Subject to Change)
From the New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls comes the never-before-told story of a small cadre of influential female spies in the precarious early days of the CIA—women who helped create the template for cutting-edge espionage (and blazed new paths for equality in the workplace) in the treacherous post-WWII era.
In the wake of World War II, four agents were critical in helping build a new organization that we now know as the CIA. Adelaide Hawkins, Mary Hutchison, Eloise Page, and Elizabeth Sudmeier, called the “wise gals” by their male colleagues because of their sharp sense of humor and even quicker intelligence, were not the stereotypical femme fatale of spy novels. They were smart, courageous, and groundbreaking agents at the top of their class, instrumental in both developing innovative tools for intelligence gathering—and insisting (in their own unique ways) that they receive the credit and pay their expertise deserved.
Throughout the Cold War era, each woman had a vital role to play on the international stage. Adelaide rose through the ranks, developing new cryptosystems that advanced how spies communicate with each other. Mary worked overseas in Europe and Asia, building partnerships and allegiances that would last decades. Elizabeth would risk her life in the Middle East in order to gain intelligence on deadly Soviet weaponry. Eloise would wield influence on scientific and technical operations worldwide, ultimately exposing global terrorism threats. Through their friendship and shared sense of purpose, they rose to positions of power and were able to make real change in a traditionally “male, pale, and Yale” organization—but not without some tragic losses and real heartache along the way.
Meticulously researched and beautifully told, Holt uses firsthand interviews with past and present officials and declassified government documents to uncover the stories of these four inspirational women. Wise Gals sheds a light on the untold history of the women whose daring foreign intrigues, domestic persistence, and fighting spirit have been and continue to be instrumental to our country’s security.
About the Author
Nathalia Holt, Ph.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls, The Queens of Animation, and Cured. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Pacific Grove, CA.
“A sweeping epic of a book, Holt’s Wise Gals rescues five remarkable women from obscurity and finally gives them their rightful place in world history. This is a fascinating story of pioneers and patriots, of science and technology, of ambition and sacrifice…of female spies. I particularly admired the Cold War sequences, with their insider accounts of both the space and nuclear arms races, but it’s the breathtaking scale of this story that truly stuns: spanning continents and decades with impressive skill and impeccable research, yet simultaneously sharing the tender secrets from each woman’s life to make this political history personal. A book you won’t regret reading. Five women you won’t forget.” –Kate Moore, author of The Radium Girls and The Woman They Could Not Silence
“Too often we argue about where we should go when we have little idea how we got to where we are. Nathalia Holt’s Wise Gals is the engrossing story of a group of dedicated women who not only served the nation as intelligence professionals, but also helped to forge a path towards equality and opportunity. As entertaining as it is instructive.” –General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army (Ret), author of My Share of the Task and Team of Teams
“A sparkling tale of secrets and spies, Wise Gals uncovers a group of exceptional CIA women who helped build the modern intelligence community even as they fought for equal pay and standing with their male colleagues. Holt has a gift for illuminating hidden worlds, and she delivers a story for the ages.” –Jason Fagone, author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies
“Nathalia Holt weaves a spellbinding narrative as compulsively readable as a good spy novel. She shines a spotlight on the women who put their lives on the line during World War II and later during the Cold War. They never sought any attention but I am grateful that Nathalia has given it to them.” –Kate Andersen Brower, author of First Ladies and The Residence
“Nathalia Holt's Wise Gals is a much-needed addition to the history of the OSS and CIA. It shines a bright spotlight on the long-neglected role women played in the shadowy Cold War world of spies and their handlers. Deftly employing multiple narratives and shifting locales, Holt illuminates the trials and adventures of the troupe of savvy female operatives who helped steer the course of post-World War foreign policy for the U.S.” –Tim Brady, author of Three Ordinary Girls
"Explosive and enthralling insight into the little-known 'petticoat panel.' The way that the biographies of these brave women is woven within their harrowing work overseas makes this work read like a spy thriller. Holt’s access and research into the world of gender inequality at the CIA should be required reading; she has given these women their rightful place in history.” —Tracy Walder, former CIA operative and FBI special agent and author of The Unexpected Spy