Spying in the Blood: Gertrude Sanford Legendre’s Privilege, Patriotism, and Espionage

Christopher Dickey will discuss “Gertie” and her family
Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 6 pm
Addlestone Library Room 227
Gertrude Sanford Legendre

Gertrude “Gertie” Sanford Legendre was an American socialite who served as a spy during World War II and managed to outmaneuver the Nazis after being captured. She was also a noted explorer, big-game hunter, environmentalist, and owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina.  She was born into a very wealthy and well-connected New York family in 1903.  She was the quintessence of WASPdom, as most of the American elite was in those days.  A true heroine who hated being underestimated because she was a woman, she traveled the globe in search of big game, wild landscapes and exotic cultures.

Legendre’s grandson, Pierre Manigault, chairman of the board of Evening Post industries and co-founder of Garden & Gun Magazine describes her as “…tough as she could be. But, also a very social, very gregarious person, and she charmed everybody. She was very good at making people feel at ease.”  (Dickey, the Daily Beast)

Christopher Dickey

Christopher Dickey is a war correspondent, historian, and thriller writer, an authority on terrorism, and a memoirist. He is the Paris-based foreign editor of The Daily Beast, and is a contributor to NBC/MSNBC News. Chris also has been a frequent commentator on CNN, the BBC, and NPR. He was formerly a bureau chief for Newsweek in Paris and Cairo, and for The Washington Post in Central America and the Middle East.

Chris’s most recent work of non-fiction is Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South, published in 2015. It was a New York Times best-seller, and was published in paperback in July 2016. Pulitzer prize-winning historian James M. McPherson described it as “an engrossing account of diplomatic derring-do,” and Kirkus, in a starred review, called it, flatly, “a great book.”

At a time when Americans are searching for a deeper understanding of their history as it affects today’s burning questions of race and politics, “Our Man in Charleston” offers startling insights into the grim narrative of slavery, the matter of states’ rights, and the foundations of racism in the United States as viewed by an outsider in the heart of the Southern “slavocracy.” A compelling true story, deeply researched and thoroughly documented, it tells of one young British diplomat’s ultimately successful effort to prevent the Crown from supporting the Confederacy. Had British military might backed the secessionists, especially in the early days of the conflict, that would have been checkmate, game over for the Union. But that did not happen, and this narrative, much of it based on “private and confidential” correspondence never before published, shows why.

Chris’s earlier works Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force—The NYPD, was chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the notable books of 2009.” His Summer of Deliverance, another “notable book of the year,” was described beautifully by Elizabeth Hardwick as “a heartbreaking, eloquent memoir by the son of the heartbreaking, eloquent poet, James Dickey.”

So, you’ll say that what’s common about Chris’s books is combat, spookery, terror and emotional trauma. And that’s partly true. But there is also another deeply felt theme in many of them: that of family as the ultimate source of human drama and also the social force that far too often is misunderstood, or ignored, in our efforts to grasp what’s going on in the world around us. For more on this theme see pages 228-229 in the paperback edition of “Summer of Deliverance” or Location 3949 on the Kindle edition.

Chris’s columns about counter-terrorism, espionage and the Middle East appear regularly now on, where they reach some 23 million readers a month. For links to recent columns and articles, visit “The Shadowland Journal” at Over the years, he has written for Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, Rolling Stone, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Republic, among other publications.

What else does Chris do? Apart from spending as much time with his grandchildren as possible, Chris is a passionate amateur photographer. As he moves through the streets of Paris, New York and other cities around the world, he constantly takes pictures to amuse himself. His Instagram and Twitter handles are the same: @csdickey.

Chris is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a master’s degree in documentary film making from Boston University. Among his many honors are a doctorate from Hamilton College and journalism awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Inter-American Press Association and Georgetown University. Chris is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he was formerly an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow, and the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris. He is on the board of the Overseas Press Club of America

Book Signing

Christopher Dickey’s three latest books will be available for purchase and Chris will sign books after his talk.








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