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
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
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.
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
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
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
Chapter Four Understanding the development of MI5 and Women’s Employment in at the Organisational Level 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
Chapter Five The Real James Bond: Exploring Women’s Experiences in Intelligence Employment 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