Manage episode 235062879 series 2427582
In the early 1930s, Velvalee Dickinson moved to New York City where she opened her own exclusive doll shop. She built her reputation as an expert in rare, antique, and foreign dolls. She traveled extensively around the country lecturing and exhibiting her dolls while building a wealthy clientele.
Due to her husband’s poor health and her failing business, she accepted the role as a spy for the Imperial Japanese Government. By hiding coded messages in her correspondence about dolls, she was able to pass on to her Japanese contacts critical military information about the US warships.
The FBI arrested her and charged her with espionage and violation of censorship laws. She became the first American woman to face the death penalty on charges of spying for a wartime enemy. Eventually the espionage charge was dropped, and she was sentenced to 10 years at Alderson Correctional Facility and a $10,000 fine. Four years into her stay at Alderson, Eunice Kennedy took a special interest in Velvalee and helped her find employment once she left Alderson. Later, Velvalee would become Eunice’s private secretary.
Velvalee Dickinson reached out to Eunice one last time when she was in her 70s, asking for her assistance in getting a job at the New York World’s Fair. She eventually disappeared, having lived her life after prison in anonymity.
Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy is a carefully researched glimpse into the “Doll Woman’s” life as a collector of dolls, and as the highest paid American woman who spied for the Imperial Japanese Government during World War II.
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