because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gabrielle Petit

Having your mother die while you're just a child would be a hard thing to deal with. Having your working class father send you to a boarding school rather than let you stay with your one remaining parent would certainly add another emotional burden to your load. But Gabrielle Petit, who reached adulthood in Belgium just as Germany occupied her native land at the beginning of World War I, had already suffered both of these hardships by that time and was still standing.

So when her soldier fiance was wounded, Petit not only helped him to escape back into The Netherlands to rejoin his unit, but she reported everything she could remember to the British Intelligence authorities while she was there. Immediately impressed by her in-your-facedness, the Brits recruited her on the spot, gave her some training and ushered her back into Belgium to feed them additional and ongoing information about the German troops.

For nearly two years, using multiple false identities, Petit not only gathered and passed information, but assisted the underground resistance and distributed copies of the resistance newspaper, La libre Belgique, as well. Finally, in February of 1916 someone ratted her out to the Germans and she was arrested, tried and convicted of being a spy. Only twenty-two at the time, Petit divulged no information about her co-conspirators, even when offered clemency in exchange.

When the Germans preparing to execute Petit by firing squad offered her a blindfold, she refused, saying only, "Now you will see how a Belgian woman dies." Like an in-your-face woman, yes? Yes!

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