Jessie Jordan lived from 23 December 1887 to 1954. She was a hairdresser who was convicted as a German spy in the late 1930s. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Jessie Jordan was the illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Wallace, a domestic maid, and was born in Glasgow. She spent her childhood in Perth. At the age of 19 in 1907 she met a German waiter called Frederick Jordan and they moved together to Hamburg. They married in 1912 and had a daughter in 1914. Jessie spent the First World War working as a hairdresser in Hamburg. She briefly returned to Perth after her husband's death from pneumonia, but was back in Germany in 1920, when she married Baur Baumgarten, her late husband's cousin.
Her second marriage apparently failed in 1937, and she returned to Scotland, setting up a hairdressing business in Dundee. A hairdresser employed by Jessie Jordan reported to the police her suspicions about odd patterns of mail arriving at the business which would then be forwarded by Jessie to a chemist's shop in Amsterdam. After a surveillance operation by MI5, Jessie was arrested on 2 March 1938. She was accused of working as an agent of German intelligence, operating a mailbox for German agents in the UK and the USA and forwarding material to the continent. She was also accused of taking photographs and making sketches of sensitive military installations in Scotland.
Her motivation for spying was never made clear, though seems to have been neither ideological or financial. Jessie spent most of the Second World War in prison, afterwards being expelled from the UK to Germany. She died in Hanover in 1954.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".