Gertrude Sanford Legendre

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Gertrude Sanford Legendre
File:Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) - Portrait of Gertrude Sanford.jpg
Gertrude Sanford (William Orpen, 1922)
Born Gertrude Ellen Sanford
(1902-03-29)29 March 1902
Aiken, South Carolina
Died 8 March 2000(2000-03-08) (aged 97)
Berkeley County, South Carolina
Resting place Medway
Citizenship U.S.A.
Known for Hunter, spy, socialite
Spouse(s) Sidney J. Legendre
Children Bokara Legendre
Landine Legendre

Gertrude Sanford Legendre (1902–2000) was an American socialite who served as a spy during World War II. She was also a noted explorer, big-game hunter, environmentalist, and owner of Medway plantation in South Carolina.

Early life

Born in Aiken, South Carolina, she was the daughter of New York rug magnate and member of the United States House of Representatives from New York's 20th congressional district, John Sanford (1851), and the granddaughter of Sarah Jane Cochrane (1830–1901) and Stephen Sanford (1826–1913), an American businessman and president and CEO of the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company, who also served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from New York's 18th congressional district.

She was also the daughter of Ethel Sanford, the daughter of Gertrude Ellen Dupuy and the Hon. Henry Shelton Sanford, an accomplished diplomat and successful businessman and the founder of Sanford, Florida.[1][2]

She was educated at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, and made her debut after her graduation in 1920.

She spent 1923 to 1929 travelling the world as a big-game hunter in South Africa, Canada, and Alaska.

Shortly after exploring Abyssinia for the American Museum of Natural History as part of the Sanford-Legendre Abyssinia Expedition, Gertrude Sanford married the expedition's co-leader Sidney J. Legendre on 17 September 1929; he died in 1948.[3][4] They had two daughters, Bokara and Landine. Landine was married to Peter Manigault, chairman of The Evening Post Publishing Company in Charleston, South Carolina.[5]

Katharine Hepburn’s character of Linda Seton in the 1938 version of Holiday was loosely based on her.

During World War II, Legendre worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Message Center in London, England, under David K. E. Bruce. On 26 September 1944, she was the first American woman captured on the western front in France by the Germans. Legendre was held for six months and then escaped into Switzerland.

She lived to be 97 and wrote two autobiographies, one in 1948 and another in 1987.[6] Regarding the trajectory of her life, she once said, "I don't contemplate life. I live it.".[7]


  1. Siemiatkoski, Donna H (1990). The Descendents of Governor Thomas Welles of Connecticut, 1590-1658, and His Wife, Alice Tomes. Gateway Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Sanford Historical Society, "General Henry S. Sanford."
  3. Shavit, David (1990). The United States in Asia: a historical dictionary. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 300. ISBN 0-313-26788-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Gertrude Sanford, Explorer, To Marry" The New York Times, 20 August 1929
  5. A Life Less Ordinary: The Legendary Adventures of Lowcountry Socialite Gertrude Legendre, Charleston Magazine, October 2005, pp. 70-74.
  6. Nemy, Enid (March 13, 2000). "Gertrude Sanford Legendre, 97, Socialite Turned Hunter and Prisoner of War". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Deadly prose -

External links