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The Only Woman in the Room Bets On...

The Only Woman in the Room

January 2019

Marie Benedict’s THE OTHER EINSTEIN and CARNEGIE’S MAID were both Bets On selections. Marie’s passion for looking at the lives of forgotten women and writing about them has led her to the subjects that she explores in her work. Thus, I was very interested to see who Marie would focus on next. I never would have guessed Hedy Lamarr. I knew Hedy as the stunning screen actress who was known for her looks. I never knew that she was the person who held the first patent for Wi-Fi. So when you use your cell phone and text, you are embracing technology that Hedy was behind, as well as when you plug in your Bluetooth connection.

Hedy was born and raised in Austria, where her acting skills led her to the theater. There, a suitor, Friedrich “Fritz” Mandl, courted her, wooing her with fine meals, jewelry and attention. He delivered to her a world that was fashionable and, during a time when Hitler was marching around Europe, safe. Hedy was Jewish, and she needed protection as the drums of war drew closer. Fritz was a wealthy businessman whose trade was in munitions. She would sit and listen to him conducting business, noting how the shipments of arms were being trafficked. Although many thought she was just another pretty face, she was actually making a mental note of what was going on --- and recognizing that Hitler was going to overtake Austria, as he had done with Germany.

Meanwhile, Hedy’s relationship with Fritz is barely civil, as he is completely controlling, locking her in a room each day as he goes off to work. She was someone he wanted to admire --- and completely dominate. Seeing where her life was headed, Hedy plots an escape, which she finally executes after a failed attempt --- and heads on a journey via London that lands her in Hollywood working for Louis B. Mayer at MGM. What followed were the multiple film roles that we associate with her name.

As the United States entered the war after Pearl Harbor, Hedy wanted to help her adopted country win. Based on conversations that she heard from Fritz and his colleagues, she began to draw up plans for an invention that would keep torpedoes from hitting ships. While this technology was never used in the war, a version of it was adopted by the Navy in the 1960s.

THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM sums up Hedy’s early years when she was sitting in rooms with Fritz as he met with his colleagues, as well as her later years, when she presented her inventions and sketches to the military.

As always, Marie’s writing is engaging, and she swiftly draws readers into her work. I am looking forward to seeing what forgotten woman she conquers next!

The Only Woman in the Room
by Marie Benedict