Martha Peterson commented, “After we were married, he told me he had applied for the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA.” Her husband, like Lilian’s in Invisible Women Ep. 3, as required by his agency, kept his operative status and secret position from her until they married.
In the 1970s, the Petersons were stationed in Laos where she was hired as an office clerk while her husband was in the field. After he was killed in a helicopter crash, she returned to the United States and applied to train as a CIA operative. She was 27 and only offered secretarial work. However, being multilingual, having had oversea experience, and a masters degree, the CIA reconsidered and agreed to train Martha Peterson as an operative.
Within a year she learned Russian and in 1975 was sent to the USSR. She was the only woman intelligence agent in the Moscow office and it was soon discovered, to her immense advantage, that the Russian intelligence service (KGB) did not view her as a threat and did not surveil her. Since there were many women clerks in the Moscow office, the KGB thought she was just another office worker. She used that as her cover — living outwardly as an office clerk. Due to the cultural expectations of the time and the beliefs about women’s capabilities and place in western society, the KGB never suspected her. Martha Peterson was soon handling an extremely productive double agent, a KGB officer in Moscow. She used parks and bridges as dead drops to connect with him and collect information.
In her book, The Widow Spy, she explains Cold War spying and her unusual involvement at a time when women were not considered capable of being espionage agents.