(6/24/1914 – 2/24/2008)
She might not have ever done a sexy-dance through security laser beams, but Pearl Cornioley is one bad mutha. After her death this past February, she was recently declassified and her contribution to the French Resistance against Nazis in World War II was revealed. Not only did she hide secret messages in the hem of her skirt as she was parachuted into France, but she led troops to interrupt the Paris-Bordeaux railway at least 800 times and was considered by her superiors to be the best shot yet, male or female. No wonder Hitler and his cronies issued a 1 million franc bounty over her head! And you thought the getaway scene in Sound of Music was a nail-biter!
Her nom de guerre varied from “Pauline” to “Genevieve Touzalin”, but her comrades called her “Wrestler” as she posed as a cosmetics saleswoman to gather information and relay important messages to her troops. Her fluency in French and bitterness in the French defeat of the 1914-1918 war led her interest in working with the British Goverment as a fearless spy who fought alongside her male counterparts. And in a twist fit for Hollywood, she fell in love with a French fighter named Henri and was married after the war despite numerous attempts at their death and separation. But according to the NY Times, love wasn’t her main motivator at justice, “Ms. Cornioley insisted that romance was not her motivation for going to war. In an interview with The Telegraph in 2002, she said: ‘There was a job to be done. I didn’t put my life at risk just so I could be with Henri.’
Amen to that! And when the British tried to honor her with a civilian award, Pearl scoffed and said “The men have relieved military decorations, why this discrimination with women when they put the best of themselves into the accomplishment of their duties? I must say that the MBE looks puny. If I wear a decoration, I wish to be proud of it.” She was later awarded with her “parachute wings” in 2001 and showered with recognition. A toast goes out to Pearl Cornioley, a heroine in world history.
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