Back to top

Historian Lynne Olson Discusses “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War”

Press Release

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 9:13a.m.

The St. Louis County Library Foundation’s ‘Buzz’ Westfall Favorite Author Series is pleased to present bestselling historian Lynne Olson for a discussion and signing of “Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler.” 

The event will take place on Tuesday, March 12, at 7:00 p.m. at Library Headquarters (1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd.) The program is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase at the event from Left Bank Books.

The bestselling author of “Citizens of London” and “Last Hope Island,” Lynne Olson presents
the little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II. 

In 1941 a 31-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization—the only woman to serve as a “chef de résistance” during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. 

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

Lynne Olson is the New York Times bestselling author of “Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War;” “Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939–1941;” and “Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour.” 

The program with Lynne Olson is a St. Louis County Library ‘Buzz’ Westfall Favorite Author Series presentation. The Westfall series features authors of politics, current issues, history, and sports. The series is sponsored by Webster University- George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology; A.J.P. Realty; McMahon Berger; Royal Banks of Missouri; St. Louis Business Journal; the St. Louis Press Club; and The Booksource.

Program sites are accessible. Upon two weeks’ notice, accommodations will be made for persons with disabilities. Contact St. Louis County Library by phone 314-994-3300 or visit