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My birth name is Munnerlyn Edison. I was born in Asheville, North Carolina, USA, in 1932. I have frequently changed my last name, similar to how women change their lipstick. However, I eventually realized that my last name was simply something I borrowed from a man. My last name did not define me as a person and it never quite fit. My given code name from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was more fitting than any married name that I simply shoplift from a man. I often returned the title to its rightful owner. Instead, my character is what truly matters. 


Red lipstick has been my go-to for years. It has never disappointed me, taken advantage of me, cheated, or lied to me. I have never given up on my red lipstick. I have used it to my advantage. For over 4,000 years, it has been the classic color often associated with power and passion. Women have used red lipstick to showcase their social status and many other things. From the elites of Ancient Egypt to American suffragettes in 1912, this beauty trend has been used to make a statement. However, a rumor has circulated that red lipstick is made from bugs. As it turns out, the rumor is true. Red dye is indeed made from bugs. The cochineal bug, to be exact, has been used to create a natural red dye for hundreds of years across many cultures. Native to Central and South America, this bug has been used to create a red dye since the time of the Aztecs. When Spain invaded Mesoamerica, the cochineal bug quickly became a source of wealth. Royalty and artists alike wanted the bright colors for themselves, and even Britain hired pirates to plunder gold, cochineal bugs, and other valuables from trade ships. The British used the dye to color their famous red coats, and it is even rumored that Betsy Ross used the cochineal bug to dye the red stripes on the first American flag. Carmine is also known as cochineal extract, also known as red coloring number 4. In order to produce a single pound of dye, around 70,000 cochineal bugs are required. I have personally utilized my fair share of these bugs. While they lack any taste, the significance lies more in the pursuit of vanity and dressing to the nines from top to bottom.


My story as a female codebreaker who was a heartbreaker has never been publicly told. Actually, the story was never meant to be told to protect the innocent. It's time I tell my story and declassify the internal history of my life as a CIA female special agent. More importantly, the actions of my life focus on the job as a female spy for the US Government and how we did not talk about our work - not to our friends, not to our families, or each other. But we talked a lot about red lipstick. Most agents took the secret to their graves. Now it's time to use my lips for real and tell my story. I am nearing 90 years old. The NSA and CIA have a reputation for silence. At my age, why hide from anything? Go ahead and go public, tell the story of the brave women out there fighting the war, engaging in espionage, and sabotage to keep our country safe. I am the only one in control of my happiness, and I have no desire to take secrets to my grave. It just shows that none of us is immune from the trials and tribulations of life. At least I can say I have lived one hell of a life. And I have learned that you can choose your friends and husbands, but not your family.


“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” — Walt Whitman 

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