I’m sure each and every one of us has at one point or another wished that they were a suave, sophisticated and skilled secret agent. But is being a secret agent all about the glamorous lifestyles that are portrayed in the movies? Or is there something more?

When you take a step back and think about it logically, it’s probably not all tuxedos and martinis but rather, a dangerous, difficult and lonely job to fulfil. Really, we should have more respect for the profession and those who are capable enough to do it. What we should also consider, is that even as far back as the 1700s, women did it too!

Some of you may have heard of Agent 355, some of you may not; until I stumbled upon an article about her, I had not. The very little that is known about Agent 355 cannot be claimed as solid truth: the staple of a great agent, I’m sure! But the true identity of Agent 355 is still theorised upon by people today.

Some say she was instrumental in the uncovering of Benedict Arnold’s defection to Britain, and was also a socialite wife to Robert Townsend: she was supposedly George Washington’s most valued informant and was of high social standing. Perhaps her feminine status and elevated social standing are what made her such as asset in the first place? Once again, demonstrating the power of a woman!

The most prominent and frankly heartbreaking rumour I came across was that she was exposed as a spy after the uncovering of Arnold’s treachery and was imprisoned on a ship where she died giving birth to her first son, Robert Townsend Jr.

Others claim she was not a singular ‘she’ at all but rather a collection of female informants who were reportedly heavily used by George Washington during the American Revolution. 355 was, after all, the code for ‘lady’ used by the infamous Culper Ring.

So here I am, writing about a woman who, from the sounds of it, should be remembered in history but is often overlooked. Her memory is shrouded in mystery and rumour, and nobody really knows anything for sure about her. It’s both exciting and tragic. One thing is for sure, the stories that have come from her achievements, whether they are fictional or fact, are a breath of fresh air in a world of clichéd James Bond’s and Jack Reacher’s.

And the moral of this story? Never underestimate a woman, her resources or her ability.

-Rebecca King
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.


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