Five Female Spies Who Makes Us Believe Spying Has Never Been Just A 'Man Thing!'

Female spies and secret agents carried out some of history's most brave and duplicitous missions, from the English Civil War to World War 2, using everything in their power to gather information and risking everything for a cause or causes they believed in.

Apoorva Chakrayat
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Female spies
When we think of a spy, an image of a man with a cool stare and a sharp mind comes to the mind. We recall names such as Aldrich Ames, David Henry Barnett, Kevin Mallory, Harold James Nicholson, Mohanlal Bhaskar, Ravindra Kaushik, and Kashmir Singh.

However, women are rarely portrayed as spies, despite the fact that women have played an important role as spies. Female spies and secret agents carried out some of history's bravest and duplicitous missions. From the English Civil War to World War 2, using everything in their power to gather information and risking everything for a cause or causes they believed in.

So, here are five female spies or masterminds who altered the enemy's battle algorithm as well as the old traditional algorithm:

Sehmat: The real spy with a fake name

Harinder Sikka's novel "Calling Sehmat" explores the greatness of Sehmat, a real-life spy. Although the character of Sehmat is very real, the name is a made-up name. Sikka used a fictitious name to ensure the safety of the girl who dared to spy on Pakistanis. Sikka learned about Sehmat from an army officer who told him about his mother, who was the daughter of a Kashmiri businessman. The army officer informed Sikka that his mother was an Indian spy who was married off to a Pakistani officer in 1971 in exchange for keeping tabs on our neighbour's most sensitive information. Sikka double-checked all of the information Sehmat provided with the Indian army and it proved to be absolutely true.

When Sehmat married in Pakistan, the war between Pakistan and India was coming up. Sehmat went above and beyond her training to obtain secret information, despite the fact that she was only trained to be a facilitator. During her stay in Pakistan, Sehmat learned about Pakistan's plan to sink the INS Viraat. Sehmat returned to India after finishing the work.  She was pregnant at the time, and she gave birth to a son who also joined the Indian army.

Even though Sehmat is no longer alive, no true Indian can overlook her contributions to the country. Raazi by Dharma Productions reveals Sehmat's  will power, determination, and strength, revealing her to be a real-life superhero.


Women and marriage, My Feminist Hero Raazi, Picture Credit: YouTube Screengrab

Suggested Reading: Five Badass Female Spies Who Stepped Into Enemy Territory Undeterred

Madhuri Gupta: The diplomat turned spy

Madhuri Gupta was an Indian diplomat accused of treason for Pakistan. She was assigned as a second secretary in the Indian High Commission's media section in Islamabad. Gupta, now in her late fifties, was summoned back to Delhi on April 22, 2010 to assist her colleagues in preparing for the SAARC summit in Bhutan. She was taken away by the Intelligence Bureau to an undisclosed location after landing at IGI Airport and handed over to the Delhi Police.


She was charged with treason and gaining access to classified information in violation of the Official Secrets Act. According to the chargesheet filed against Gupta, she allegedly communicated with an ISI official named Jamshed and passed sensitive information to him. The Delhi High Court ruled in January of this year that she be charged under the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.

Noor Inayat Khan: The ‘Indian-origin’ British spy

Khan was a British secret agent during World War 2. She was of Indian ancestry. She was the first woman radio operator dispatched into Nazi-occupied France by Winston Churchill's Special Operations Executive, an organisation formed to conduct espionage and sabotage against German forces. The Gestapo, Germany's secret police force, arrested and executed her.

Khan was born in Moscow on January 1, 1914, to an Indian father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, and an American mother. She was a direct descendant of Tipu Sultan, the Muslim ruler of Mysore in the 18th century. In 1942, she was recruited to work as a radio operator for the Special Operations Executive.

She was flown to France in June 1943 to work as a radio operator for the 'Prosper' resistance network in Paris under the codename 'Madeleine.' She was dumped by the Gestapo after being betrayed by a French woman. Khan and three other female SOE agents were transferred to Dachau concentration camp in September 1944, where they were murdered on September 13, 1944. Khan was posthumously awarded the George Cross for her bravery in 1949.

Radhika Apte as Noor Inayat Khan Radhika Apte as Noor Inayat Khan


Mata Hari: Spy or scapegoat

Margaretha Zelle, a Dutch-born exotic dancer, performed under the stage name Mata Hari. In 1905, she began her career in Paris. She was popular with the audiences she drew from Berlin, Vienna and Madrid. She allegedly had affairs with military and political figures. With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, Mata Hari's international connections drew the attention of French authorities. The nature of her spying is unknown, but she claimed in Belgium that she was paid to spy for France. When she returned to Paris in 1917, British intelligence discovered evidence of her spying, and she was arrested and convicted of being a German spy. In October the same year, she was executed at the age of 41, and reports claim that she refused to wear a blindfold and spent the last few seconds of her life gazing at the firing squad.

Nancy Wake: The fearless ‘white mouse’

Nancy Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on August 30, 1912. After her adolescence, she travelled to London, New York and Paris, where she eventually settled. In 1936, she met Henri Fiocca, a Marseilles industrialist, with whom she married and settled in Marseilles. Following the German invasion of France, she began assisting local Resistance groups.

She worked as a courier and escort for Allied troops. When the Germans learned of her activities, she fled France in 1943. Her husband, who had remained behind, was executed. She travelled to England and was trained by the British Special Operations Executive, an intelligence organisation that collaborated with the French Resistance. At the age of 31, she was one of 39 women and 430 men parachuted into France in April 1944 to assist with the preparations for D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War 2.

Female Spies Mata Hari Sehmat Khan women and the world wars