Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy

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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.

About Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy

Velvalee Dickinson was born in Sacramento, California, graduated from Stanford University, married three times, and then in the early 1930s moved to New York City where she eventually opened her own exclusive doll shop on the prestigious Madison Avenue. It was there that 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 that included Hollywood stars, members of high society, politicians, and other collectors.

When medical bills started to accumulate because of her husband’s poor health and business started to fail with the onset of World War II, 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. After surveilling Velvalee for over a year, 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.

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.

My Thoughts

This book intrigued me right from the start – I had never heard of Velvalee Dickinson and even the idea of using dolls to put through messages!

This is an incredibly informative story that is not overwhelming, heavy on too many facts or too lengthy. She gives you an incredible look into the life of Velvalee – how she started in the doll business and what turned her to spying. She is a woman who really made quite something of herself, while even committing such a grave crime, she gained quite the reputation as someone who had extensive knowledge in her area of expertise and held herself with grace. At times, I almost felt bad for her but then at other times when she tried to blame her deceased husband, you almost get a different look at this woman. You never really know is she truly innocent and forced to commit the crime, did she do it for her husband or did she do it for selfish reasons?

I loved that while it is a biography on her life, the way Barbara writes it almost feels like a story as well. You want to keep reading to see what happens next with the way that she describes her, the situations and the way the plot unfolds. She did a fantastic job of putting this story together and readers will appreciate this.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, as well as book-length works of nonfiction, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Her nonfiction true crime book, Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly, has been optioned for a major film and television series. Her nonfiction book, Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave, is under contract for a major film. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency.

Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2018 Barbara received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband, and three pets who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix; Reese, a black cat; and Earl Gray, a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.

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Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


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2 thoughts on “Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy

    Thank you so much for your fantastic review. It is always a thrill for me when I know someone likes what I have written. I sincerely appreciate your kind words. My best to you and your bloggers.

    ~ Barbara

  2. Marisela Zuniga

    This sounds like a very interesting book to read, thank you for sharing your review