Wife. Mother. Socialite. Game hunter. Spy. The list could go on. There’s no limit to the way one could describe Gertrude Sanford Legendre.
Bestselling author and war correspondent, Christopher Dickey, will shed light on Legendre’s unbelievable true story of high society and high danger during an upcoming talk hosted by the Friends of the Library at the College of Charleston. The talk, titled “Spying in the Blood: Gertrude Sanford Legendre’s Privilege, Patriotism, and Espionage,” will delve into the details of the life of Charleston’s “grandest dame.”
Among Charleston’s 20th century elite, Legendre truly lived a life of privilege and panache with her husband, Sidney Legendre, and their two daughters at Medway Plantation. But her stylish façade belied a woman of grit and determination who served her country during World War II, first as a manager for the cable desk of the Office of Strategic Services and later as a spy in France.
In 1944 she was captured by German soldiers. Not one to give up, Legendre put her charisma, quick wit and disarming social skills to work, selling a ruse that she was just a Red Cross volunteer. After six months of captivity, she escaped to Switzerland before returning to her life at Medway.
Dickey drew heavily on digitized archives from Special Collections at the College’s Addlestone Library in preparation for his talk as well as for a recent article featuring Legendre’s ordeal on The Daily Beast. The college completed curating the Legendre collection in 2015 and released the digital archive of the material in early 2016.
“With a grant provided by the Medway Charitable Trust, we’ve been able to return world traveler, the legendary Gertrude Legendre, to the world,” says Harlan Greene, who heads the College’s Special Collections. “Anyone with access to the internet now can view the digitized text and images regarding her via the Lowcountry Digital Library.”
Greene adds: “It’s part of our outreach, making our most important materials available to researchers like Mr. Dickey. Requests regarding the Legendre Collection have now come from France, Italy, and the US – including Hollywood.”
Christopher Dickey will present “Spying in the Blood: Gertrude Sanford Legendre’s Privilege, Patriotism, and Espionage” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, in Room 227 of the Addlestone Library.
To learn more about Dickey, visit the Friends of the Library website.