Praise For Gertie

Gertrude Legendre is one of the most fascinating characters to emerge from the history of American espionage in World War II. She was a woman who knew all the secrets—and who kept them even after the Germans captured her. But she was also a dazzling socialite in the Roaring Twenties, a huntress in some of the most forbidding terrain on Earth, and lady of the manor called Medway near Charleston. In Gertie, Kathryn Smith has given us, at last, the biography this truly extraordinary woman deserves.

Christopher Dickey, author, Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South

What a life! Heiress; adventuress; big-game hunter; explorer–in the decades after the Great War, Gertrude Legendre embodied the free-spirited Jazz Age woman. When yet another world conflict broke out, she naturally wanted to do her part for the Allied cause. Her grit and glamour sustained her when–working for “Wild Bill” Donovan’s OSS, the first organized U.S. spy service–she became the first American woman captured by the Nazis. Kathryn Smith’s marvelous biography brings Legendre’s remarkable story vividly to the page. You will be transfixed.

— Liza Mundy, author of Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II 

A wealthy socialite whose passion for adventure led her to climb mountains and hunt big game, Gertrude Legendre faced her ultimate challenge when she was captured by Nazi troops in Germany in the waning days of World War II. In this engaging biography, Kathryn Smith does full justice to Gertie’s extraordinary life.

— Lynne Olson, author of Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

Author Kathryn Smith has shined a fascinating light on the life of Charleston’s grandest dame, Gertrude Sanford Legendre, known to most simply as Gertie. In a story that stretches across almost a century, readers will follow Gertie on big game hunts in the African savannas, on expeditions to the snowcapped Himalayas and even to the dank insides of a German POW camp after she was captured working as a spy during World War II. With crisp prose and a novelist’s eye for detail, Smith brings Gertie to life, and in doing so, gives us all an example of life well lived.

— James M. Scott, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Target Tokyo and Rampage

This is a superb biography in every respect. Talented journalist-historian Kathryn Smith’s account of a woman of ultra-wealth and leisure privilege who lived like almost no other tells us much about not only Gertrude Sanford Legendre, but also America and the world in the 20th century. Who else but Gertie, a Gilded Age socialite, could’ve made the world her big game hunting ground, partied on the Riviera, survived German imprisonment in World War II, and changed with the times to help found in South Carolina a conservation movement protecting wetlands and habitat along the coast? Here Gertrude receives the absorbing life history she deserves.

— Donald M. McKale, Class of 1941 Memorial Professor and Professor Emeritus of History, Clemson University, and author of Nazis after Hitler: How Perpetrators of the Holocaust Cheated Justice and Truth.

Gertie Legendre was an American socialite who spent six months as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany.  Also, a world traveler and avid big game hunter, she downed countless specimens and species on her exotic safaris.  But late in life, she became a conservation advocate.  Reversals of this kind are a biographer’s dream and Kathryn Smith tells Gertie’s story with sweeping gusto and rich detail.

— Joseph Dalton, author of Washington’s Golden Age: Hope Ridings Miller, the Society Beat, and the Rise of Women Journalists

The South Carolina Lowcountry owes a great debt to a group of Northerners who hunted in the woods, marshes, swamps and former rice fields and then preserved the land in various ways for the future. Gertrude Sanford Legendre of Medway Plantation and Belle Wilcox Baruch of Hobcaw Barony led parallel lives in many ways. Both born in the years immediately following America’s Gilded Age, Gertie and Belle both “bucked the constraints of proper society that straight-jacketed many of [their] peers.” Belle Baruch’s own life as an heiress and hunter, a successful equestrian against Hitler’s and Mussolini’s cavalry teams in competition, and her involvement in World War II as a Coastal Observer for US Naval Intelligence made people think of Belle as unique. This biography of Gertie proves there are plenty more fascinating Lowcountry women worth showcasing, heralding and claiming as Carolinians. Kathryn Smith’s careful research and her art of storytelling combine to present another important chapter in women’s history.”

— Lee Gordon Brockington, author of Plantation Between the Waters: A Brief History of Hobcaw Barony

Gertie is one of those rare biographies that brings together a compelling subject, Gertrude Sanford Legendre, and a gifted writer and story-teller, Kathryn Smith.  Gertie springs to life as a fascinating adventuress of a bygone age.  Readers will be enthralled, and I think Gertie would be pleased.

— Kelly Durham, author, Berlin Calling

All images of Gertrude Sanford Legendre courtesy College of Charleston Library, Special Collections