Spying Gender: Women in British Intelligence 1969-1994 Spying Gender: Women in British Intelligence

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Transcript of Spying Gender: Women in British Intelligence 1969-1994 Spying Gender: Women in British Intelligence

  • Spying Gender:

    Women in British Intelligence 1969-1994

    Jessica Renee Shahan

    Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Ph.D.

    Department of International Politics

    Aberystwyth University


  • Thesis Summary

    While women have long been a part of the intelligence world, their roles in shaping contemporary intelligence organisation and practices have often been minimised, overlooked, or altogether erased. When their work is acknowledged, it is often through archetypical depictions of femme fatales or ingénues. As a result, the history of women in contemporary intelligence is piecemeal, and with few exceptions, women’s voices and experiences are missing from intelligence histories.

    This thesis explores the history of women in modern intelligence, centred on the British Security Service, MI5, from 1969 to 1994, a time period which contained many of the most significant changes for women in the organisation. This thesis addresses how structural and societal factors, in combination with organisational policies, practices, and cultures shaped women’s experiences in modern intelligence employment. Sources include autobiographical writing and public speaking events such as lectures, panel discussions, television and radio broadcasts.

    This analysis demonstrates the importance of women’s employment to studies of intelligence history and organisation and explores the interconnectedness of larger structural factors within women’s everyday lives and employment. Incorporating an interdisciplinary approach to women’s and gender history, this thesis draws from intersectional feminist theory, research on women’s employment and labour market participation, organisational and business management studies, and critical intelligence studies.

    This thesis argues that women’s narratives exist at a nexus of macro, meso and micro level forces and that these experiences are uniquely positioned to highlight how contemporary intelligence organisations have been shaped by women employees. In an ongoing fight for equality of opportunity, women have challenged and changed policies and practices which hindered their progression, including the gender coding of certain job roles. Foregrounding women’s experiences in intelligence work allows us to discern these changes in ways that are not as visible if we only consider the experiences of men.

  • Acknowledgements

    First and foremost, these acknowledgements will be insufficient. It has been a somewhat unconventional and winding path to the submission of this thesis, taking longer than is usual. I have received so much support, help, and advice from so many people. Through illness and loss, I have been continually amazed and humbled by the caring and generosity I have encountered.

    I would like to thank my supervisors: Dr. R. Gerald Hughes for his support, valuable feedback and enthusiasm for the project throughout; and, Dr. Jenny Mathers who took this project on part of way though, for her assistance, enthusiasm, and always helpful detailed feedback. Dr. Claudia Hildebrand for her comments and support in the early stages of this thesis, and Dr. Len Scott for his advice and support the beginning stages of this research.

    I am immensely grateful to the Department of International Politics for opportunities to engage in teaching and research groups, within a stimulating and challenging environment. I am incredibly grateful for the support and assistance I have received from departmental staff, especially Donia Richards and Vicki Jones.

    I also wish to thank the International Office for their support, particularly with short- notice travel, visa renewal, and consideration during difficult times. I am especially thankful to Rosa Soto for her kindness, guidance with visa applications, and continued encouragement.

    I am grateful to Su Chu Lu, your humour and kindness as a teacher have been the highlight of many weeks for me. Your classes have re-inspired a joy in learning. 非常感谢你!

    My thanks to the British International History Group for providing an inspiring intellectual environment, challenging how I think about my work, the field of international history, and for providing the opportunity to become involved in the organisation. I am especially grateful to those who helped me workshop this thesis title at the Edinburgh conference!

    To the Breakfast Club (Yvonne, Abbie, Matthew, and Sorana) for our weekly meetings, I am so grateful for your humour, brilliance, advice and willingness to debate anything and everything. To my Ph.D. cohort, your kind words and support have kept me going and will be forever appreciated. Your successes inspire me!

    My thanks to Nathan, though words are not enough, you have been my source of calm amongst the storm.

    To my family, your many stories have inspired my love of history. To my mother, your strength, courage and brilliance continue to inspire me every single day. To my father, I wish you could be here, but I will be forever grateful for your encouragement.

  • Table of Contents

    Volume 1

    Chapter One Spying Gender Introduction 1

    Thesis Question 9

    The Timeliness of Discussions on Women’s Employment in Intelligence 11

    Thesis Roadmap 14

    Chapter Two Methodology and Theory: Forming and Interdisciplinary and Intersectional Framework 17

    Existing Literature: At the intersection of women, labour, and intelligence history 18

    Analysing the Value of Memoirs and Personal Narratives 22

    Discussion of Unofficial Sources: Memoirs, Interviews, Public Engagement, and Fictional Accounts 26

    Memoirs as Constructed Texts 26

    The Contributions and Challenges of Interview Material 29

    Public Engagement: Panels, Productions, and Participation 31

    Fiction as Reflection and Critique 32

    The Source of the Problem: The hurdle of official and archival source material in intelligence studies 34

    Critical Intelligence Studies 37

    Intersectionality and Structure 39

    History of Intersectionality 43

    The Potentially Problematic Use of Intersectional Theory: 45

    How is identity defined and studied? 47

    The Potential Problems of Focus 53

    On selectivity, foregrounding, and the construction of historical narratives 56

    Mapping the Margins 57

    Complexities of Identity in Intersectional Analysis 60

    How Intersectionality Informs Research Structure 61

    Conclusion 67

    Chapter Three From Glass Ceilings and Elevators to Glass Boxes: Changing concepts and structural issues related to women’s labour force participation 69

  • Introduction: From James Bond to Liz Carlyle 69

    Glass Ceilings, Elevators and Boxes: Key concepts, themes, and approaches to women’s employment 72

    From Governess to Switchboard Operator: Technological and skill changes approaching the turn of the century 80

    What did she do during the war?: Women’s Wartime and Peacetime Employment Fluctuations 82

    Reserve Army of Labour Theories 87

    From Wartime to Postwar Employment 89

    Economic Theories on Postwar Employment 94

    Changing Demographics and Rising Social Mobility: Education, women in work, family responsibilities and household sizes in the 1950s and 1960s 96

    Dissatisfaction, Activism, and the Path to Legal Protections 105

    The Longer-term Effects of Women’s Labour Activism and Recession in Britain 109

    Rights, Privileges or Perks?: Women in paid employment and work-life balance 111

    Conclusion 116

    Chapter Four Understanding the development of MI5 and Women’s Employment in at the Organisational Level 119

    Introduction 119

    Key Concepts 124

    The Gendering of Organisations 127

    MI5’s Early Employment of Women 130

    Interwar Exclusion: Formation of the Nameless Club 136

    Women as Observers and Camouflage 138

    Returning to War: Re-establishing MI5 and Women’s Employment 139

    Agent-running in WWII: Femme fatales and ingénues 143

    The Women Otherwise Known As “Miss X” 145

    Women as the next best source of labour? 147

    Slow Postwar Progression: Operational shifts and employment increases 149

    Unions and Intelligence Service Employees 156

    Signs of Change and Revolt in the 1970s 158

    Establishing a Contemporary Security Service 162

    Comparative Intelligence Service Historical Trends in Women’s Employment 164

    Comparable Trends in SIS Employment 165

    Comparable Trends in Central Intelligence Agency Employment 166

    Conclusion 169

  • Volume 2

    Chapter Five The Real James Bond: Exploring Women’s Experiences in Intelligence Employment 174

    Introduction 174

    Experiences in Intelligence Work 179

    More Than Just a Letter in the Post: Recruitment and hiring 179

    Recruitment Contact Methods 181

    Shifting Recruitment Demographics 185

    Motivations and Expectations 187

    Culture of Secrecy and Concepts of Trust in Recruitment/Hiring 190

    Secrecy, Vetting, Testing 192

    Working in Intelligence 197

    Initial Employment and Training 197

    Halt and Catch Fire: Impacts of technological advances and changes on intelligence work 203

    Women Office Staff at Home and Abroad 205

    Women in the Field, Women in the Office 208

    Employee Rights and Unions 213