Why There Should Be More Spy Thrillers Featuring Women

By Angela Greenman

I have this amazing idea for a spy thriller:

An escapee from servitude becomes a spy and collects intelligence behind enemy lines. The spy becomes a military commander and leads three US gunboats and 150 soldiers on a raid that rescues more than 700 enslaved people.

Oh, yes, it’s a true story. Harriet Tubman did this.

Okay, how about this one:

A linguist with a prosthetic leg recruits a network of spies and poses as a dairy farmer, scouting out drop zones. In addition to radioing intelligence reports, the linguist oversees sabotage missions and enemy ambushes.

Another true story? Yes, Virginia Hall did this.

Well, I’m brainstorming another badass tale. Here’s one:

A wireless operator is sent into enemy-occupied territory with a radio suitcase weighing over 30 pounds. While trying to evade capture for months, the operator single-handedly maintains communications and helps dozens of soldiers escape.

Really? This happened? Yep, Noor Inayat Khan did this. 

Surely, with my imagination, I can dream up something. Here goes:

A philanthropist operates a spy network and uses care packages in a clever system to transmit messages. Imprisoned soldiers, using books in the packages, poke small holes under letters, relaying bits of information they know or overhear from the guards. To send messages to other agents, the philanthropist has a basket of eggs delivered. One egg is an empty shell containing a shredded note.  

Nope, this not from my muse because it is true. Elizabeth Van Lew did that.

I could write about so many more heroic women spies. Women superheroes, like their male counterparts, have saved lives, outfoxed the enemy, and brilliantly devised ways to transmit information. Women have been and are accomplished leaders in all walks of life, and their achievements should be celebrated! 

That’s why I wear socks that say: “I’m a girl. What’s your superpower?” I love wearing them because they empower me. When a job is tricky or difficult, let’s promote women to do it—because they can!

Why do I think women’s accomplishments should be applauded? During my adolescence, the message I received was that my place was second. I saw this over and over again in the Bond movies and on such television shows as ‘The Avengers‘.  I saw myself—and all women—relegated to the role of sidekick or assistant. 

Thinking that a woman belongs in a secondary role—not out front leading the action—seems rooted in our early culture as human beings. I feel that—at the simplest level—this thinking came from our beginnings where women stayed sheltered in caves to birth, nurse, and care for children. The men, meanwhile, conquered and killed for food and protection. That made sense then. Children were the future of the species and, with no medical infrastructure to support physical health, mothers became the caregivers.

But now it’s two million years later and women have come out of the cave. Have we ever! A woman commands a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier. Our species has created a society with supportive infrastructures that free us all to move forward. 

While women’s advances are beginning to be acknowledged more publicly, only a generation ago I was expected to make my goals secondary. I don’t think our culture has quite caught up with the 21st century. The young girls of our future still need more messages like this one: 

Believing this, I’m doing my part as an author to communicate this message. My spy thriller, The Child Riddler, features a strong female lead who is a badass. The story also contains several other strong women characters. We need more spy thrillers that feature women—not as assistants or sidekicks—but as leads to celebrate the badasses we are. More examples of women taking the lead will help build an empowerment mindset that drives our future female leaders to take that one extra step that puts them out front. 

Zoe, my main character in The Child Riddler, is proud to be her agency’s number one operative. She’s not an egomaniac, nor is she full of puffed-up pride. Her pride is a healthy confidence. She has worked just as hard, and is just as skilled, as her male colleagues. She earned her position and it’s normal to her. This mindset frees you to lead.

The amazing spies highlighted earlier in this article would not have succeeded in their espionage work or have saved lives with a repressive mindset that they were only qualified for second place. 

In researching these spies, I found these descriptions:

  • Harriet Tubman was a commander.
  • Virginia Hall was an extraordinary hero.
  • Noor Inayat Khan had astounding bravery
  • Elizabeth Van Lew was one of “the most skilled, innovative, and successful” of all Civil War-era spies.

Sadly, all too often only men have been defined by these terms. But now history has also given these terms to women—an empowerment message for the young women in our world.





This is the 21st-century message, isn’t it? 

Angela Greenman is an internationally recognized communications professional. Her career has spanned the spectrum from community relations in Chicago to US and world governments’ public communications on nuclear power. Her debut techno-thriller, The Child Riddler, is considered one of the best books of 2022 by BestThrillers.com, and was a Finalist in BestThrillers.com 2022 Book Awards.

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