International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 3: The twilight war: gender and espionage, Britain, 1900–1950
Popular discourse surrounding espionage in the first half of the twentieth century has centred on the scrupulously patriotic British gentleman spy and the duplicitous foreign ‘mata-hariesque’ female spy-courtesan, rendering almost invisible the many women who staffed the various branches of intelligence organizations, both in Britain and overseas. These women were generally undertaking mundane, low status and low paid work but were crucial to the development, expansion and professionalization of twentieth-century British espionage. This chapter utilizes official records, personal testimonies, newspapers and film in order to examine the gendered nature of espionage and counter-espionage, focusing on the experiences of the men and women who engaged in it, as well as public perceptions of them.
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