Annual Social History Society Conference
Time & Location
About the Event
I will be presenting a paper on the subject of 'Wives of Secret Agents: Spyscapes of the Second World War and Female Agency'. The experience of women married to spies during the Second World War has routinely been omitted from wartime operational intelligence narratives or in most cases relegated to a mere footnote. Spy wives dwelled within the covert space that existed (and still exists) between the “spyscape” or secret world and the manifest world, the wartime home front. Defined by marital status, their lives were shaped, knowingly or unknowingly, by their husbands’ wartime espionage and counterintelligence work, yet they were still expected to uphold feminine constructions of being a wife and mother. Many wives experienced separation from family and friends; poor mental wellbeing and low resilience during prolonged periods of operational absence; family (in)stability; 'moral laxity'; the inevitable element of risk and danger; and for some, a crisis of identity. In some cases, the clandestine convergence of such factors influenced their husband’s decisions and behaviour, which in turn, had an impact upon wartime intelligence operations. Through an examination of several case studies of individual wives of intelligence operatives, constructed on the basis of information gathered from scattered evidence, it is possible to assemble and analyse a wide, highly differentiated range of gender relationships at the intersection of the manifest and secret worlds.
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