Wise Gals by Nathalia Holt

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Wise Gals:

Women spies want the same pay? Who would have thought.

Quick synopsis:

The story of the first women in the CIA.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

In Egypt, American money helped build a massive concrete spire to broadcast a radio station. Its nickname was, “Roosevelt’s erection.”

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Author John Steinbeck offered to spy for the CIA while he was abroad after World War II.

My Take on Wise Gals:

There was sexism in the early days of the CIA? I am as shocked as you are.

Nathalia Holt tells the story of multiple trailblazing women in the early days of the CIA and how they tried to dispel the notion that only men could be good agents. What I really appreciate about Holt’s approach to this book is that the actual fight for equal pay and access takes up very little of the narrative. Holt highlights the absurdity of the CIAs unspoken (and sometimes spoken) policies by telling short vignettes on each of the women throughout their career. This is not a treatise on equal rights. Instead, Holt lets the women’s actions speak for themselves.

This book flies by. Holt does not spend a tremendous amount of time on any one woman or episode. For someone who wants a deep dive into the CIA in a particular time-frame, they will be left wanting much more. For someone like myself, who did not know much about the internal workings of the CIA, this book was a great read.


A great read which moves quick but covers a lot of ground. Buy it here!

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Wise Gals by Nathalia Holt