“Basically, she acted like a man.”

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In early July, she finally made it to Navarre’s country home in Oloron-Sainte-Marie. His family, however, had no idea where he was or what had happened to him. For more than a month, Marie-Madeleine stayed with them while awaiting news of his fate. Finally, word came that he was alive, although badly hurt in a battle near the Maginot Line. Late in August, he hobbled home, forty pounds lighter and in terrible pain from unhealed bullet wounds in his neck and back. (Pg.22)

Marie-Madeleine Fourcade

As he recuperated, Marie-Madeleine did her best to tamp down her impatience over her prolonged stay in this peaceful rural haven. Finally, she could contain herself no longer. She pointedly noted to Navarre that Charles de Gaulle, his longtime colleague and rival, was now in London.
Instead, Navarre said, he and Marie-Madeleine should remain in France and resist from within. The place to start, he said, was the country’s epicenter of defeatism—Vichy itself. He had many contacts there, he pointed out, thanks to his prewar political activities. Marie-Madeleine’s heart sank. It was a phony capital, she told Navarre. What could they possibly accomplish there? He replied that in order to collect intelligence, they must go to its source—France’s current seat of government. Only there could they learn more about the country’s political and military situation. (Pg.23)

As was true in America and elsewhere, many in France were profoundly shocked by the emergence of large numbers of young women in the 1920s and 1930s who had made clear their contempt for conventional feminine behavior through their independent ways, which included bobbed hair, short skirts, dancing, drinking, smoking, getting jobs, and having premarital sex.
Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, of course, embodied everything the new regime detested. She was separated from her husband, had a mind of her own and ambitions that stretched far beyond housekeeping, and had given up care of her children in order to take part in a nascent resistance campaign against the Germans. “She never operated according to society’s rules; she followed her own rules,” said a longtime acquaintance. “Basically, she acted like a man.” (Pg.26)

Did he really believe military men like himself would accept her as a leader? He swept her objections aside, pointing out that as his deputy in the interwar years, she had amassed considerable experience in the handling of agents and other aspects of the labyrinthine world of collecting intelligence. And as for being a woman, he said, that in itself was an excellent reason for her to do it because no one would suspect her. When she failed to respond, Navarre shrugged and said that if she wasn’t strong enough to take the job, he would do it himself. After hesitating for a moment, Fourcade decided she had no choice but to give in. (Pg.28)
Among her first recruits were a young air force pilot named Maurice Coustenoble and two of his colleagues, who had fetched up at the center after weeks of wandering around the country. Friends since flying school, they had fought in the battle for France and were furious when the armistice was announced.
Fourcade was initially doubtful about Coustenoble because of his unprepossessing appearance: slicked-back hair, waxed mustache, large dark eyes, and slender, slight frame. What could he have been in civilian life, she wondered. A professional ballroom dancer, perhaps, or some little clerk? But she was soon won over by his passion and directness.
If they thought the job was too much for them, she said, they should say so. They looked at her pityingly, and she guessed what they were thinking: “It’s odd that she should want to tell us what to do.” For a moment, she feared they would back out. But after a brief pause, Coustenoble announced that they were ready. (Pg.33)

“Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler” by Lynne Olson

WE&P by: EZorrilla.

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