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Skidmore College

Skidmore alumna was unsung hero in WWII

March 11, 2019

Nearly 75 years after graduating, a Skidmore alumna is receiving credit for clandestine activities that contributed to victory in World War II. 

Just months after graduation, Virginia Rathbun Stuart '43 joined the Office of Strategic Services or OSS, a predecessor to the CIA, the New York Times reports.

"In November 1943, armed with a bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College, I joined a group of women sworn to secrecy," the English major told the Times, sharing her story publicly for the first time.

The Times article, "The Women Whose Secret Work Helped Win World War II," recounts how Stuart handled classified reports for the OSS in Washington, Italy, Egypt and China during World War II. Some 13,000 Americans — one third of them women (including actress Marlene Dietrich and Julia McWilliams, later known as Julia Child) — served in the OSS, gathering intelligence to help the United States win the war, according to the Times.

"When I learned that the OSS was sending women overseas, I told my supervisor, 'Whenever and wherever there’s an opportunity, I’ll go,'" she told the Times. "She put my name on the list, and after eight months in the registry in Washington, I got the good news: They had a spot for me in Cairo."

Read more of Stuart's incredible life story. Her older sister, Edith Rathbun '40, a chemistry major who died in 2017, joined the Navy after she graduated from Skidmore, the Times also reported.

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