Growing up, Virginia led a charmed life. She spent summers in Europe and on the family’s 110-acre Box Horn farm on the outskirts of Baltimore. She went to the exclusive Roland Park Country School for Girls, then Radcliffe and Barnard. After graduating from the consular Academy in Vienna, Austria, she began working as a clerk for the US State Department with an assignment in the US Embassy in Warsaw, then in the US consulate in Izmir, Turkey. Virginia planned to take the Foreign Service examination. Everything was falling into place.
On December 8, 1933 it all changed. Virginia was hunting the Gallinago on the marshy shore of Turkey’s Gediz peninsula, when her rifle slipped and discharged, severely injuring her left leg and foot. A portion of her leg below the knee was amputated when gangrene set in.
The State Department had strict rules forbidding applicants with amputations from entering the Foreign Service. Virginia was furious and fought this form of discrimination against the differently-abled, but her appeal was rejected by then-Secretary of State Cordell Hull. This set into motion Virginia’s eventual departure from the State Department and could have fueled her determination to join British Intelligence and join the fight in France.
The Gallinago, also known as the Snipe is a marsh-dweller related to the Sandpiper and Woodcock. It’s most often hunted after dark. Popular in Europe, the Gallinago is a dark-meat bird with a flavor more mild than Duck.