The Real Life Peggy Carters
The movie and comic book world has many heroes which have been enjoyed since the beginning of the golden age. From a young age, we’ve indulged in stories of men in suits and capes saving the day and getting the girl. In recent years Marvel has expanded their cinematic universe. In 2011, they released Captain America the First Avenger, the back story of Steve Rodgers. Also, being the starting point for many characters throughout the Marvel universe. Whilst some are heroes, they don’t have super powers or come in the male form. In this case it was Agent Carter, her power being empowerment and her cape a Besame in red velvet.
There were many women during the war who were real life Peggy Carters Doing similar things to the character. One women was Violette Szabo recruited as a field operative and courier for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), an organisation that Carter was also a part of. At age 23 she was parachuted in to south-west France on her second mission in the country the day after D-day to set up new networks with local resistance groups.
Three days in to the mission whilst on a courier trip with a resistance leader known as ‘Anastasie’ they encountered German forces. Szabo fought them for 20 minutes with a Sten gun allowing the resistance leader to escape before she was captured. In the following months, she was interrogated and brutally tortured. She survived for nine months before being executed at Ravensbuch Concentration camp. In 1947, her daughter was awarded on her behalf with the prestigious George Cross medal, at the time she was only the second female to get the honour.
Today there are still lots of women out there considered real life Peggy Carters, either military based, sharing her values or doing inspirational things. One of those people is Jennifer, a tactical coordinator in the Royal Canadian Airforce.
Her routine varies day by day, on a non-flying day she usually works on different projects or something towards her training involving research and questions. On a flying day, the times vary because they change depending on the flight.
“I will go in, prepare for brief, go for weather, get the crew brief and then a couple hours later we will go out for the actual flight, will start up and do our pre-flight inspection, hopefully grab some food some were, go for our flight which can be anywhere from three to twelve hours and by the time we have finished all of that we will land, do all of our debriefing and then get to go home finally.”
Jennifer flies on the CP-140 Aurora and is responsible for doing the communications on the radios and directing the crew. Overall her squadron is responsible for hunting submarines focusing on anti-warfare. As a tactical coordinator, she works on the back of the plane passing messages back and forth on the radio describing what is going on outside and around them with position updates. She explained that during flights they usually won’t know if it’s day or night from being dark inside. “If were doing anti-submarine things, we will usually be anywhere from 300 feet over the water, it’s very uncomfortable and most people get sick; I am one of those people. That’s the worst part of the job.”
Working in the RACAF has allowed Jennifer to be a part of something that is fulfilling as a result of the lives she had a part in saving. A moment described as a big highlight in her career was a couple of years ago, a part of a search and rescue that involved nine fishermen whose boats sunk. Another memorable and empowering part of this mission was the high percentage of women involved. “We had four on my plane and we had three on a Hercules that came in as well which made it about 25% which doesn’t sound very high. But in the operations side and in aviation in general worldwide, women are only about 5-7% of the workforce. Even in the Air Force the Canadian Armed Forces have the highest percentage of women which is only 18%. So, to have 25% on an actual operation was quite something”
With the similarities in their jobs, Jennifer can be considered a modern-day Peggy Carter being a reason why she relates to her character personally. “I am not an Agent in any stretch of the imagination, but being one of the only females on the entire squadron is the biggest point between myself and her.”
With Peggy being one of the only women working in the SSR after the war with an Agent title however her male colleagues treat her as their personal secretary. Whilst things have dramatically improved, incidents still occur. In regards to how the show handles these issues Jennifer believes it was toned down after women she met who joined the Air Force in the past put up with a lot more. In her own experience, it has been different due to having an officer status and joining later than most. Despite this, things still occur “when I answer the phone, “hi may I help you sir?” and I always answer I am not a sir.” Jennifer always calls them out on these comments which helps in educating people. “I try to remember to do it in a way that people will understand why and explain that it is not something you should be doing or saying.”
Peggy ‘unforgettable one liner also had an impact on Jennifer in what she does, “when she says I know my value, that’s something that we all have to remember especially when we feel like a small part of a giant organization, and especially because that’s one of the things we are taught in the military ethos is to value that in other people.” One of her favorite aspects is that it is all authentic to the era through the issues of the time, costumes and the military aspect. This is because a lot of military shows that she watches being unrealistic and lots of women being able to sympathize with Peggy in any job.
For Jennifer, the show is all about the women because it also includes a prominent female villain who get her fair share of coming up on top, “It’s great seeing her kick some ass in it.” It shows that it has more to it than watching them be saved by someone, but figuring things out themselves. Overall it is clear to see that there are many Peggy Carter’s out there, who continue to inspire the next generation to be strong, independent and to always know their value.