World War I and World War II provided British women with the opportunity to move outside of the domestic sphere and enter the public realm of work. Women not only supported war efforts by working at the home front, but also by contributing overseas as members of British Intelligence. Secret roles placed these women in a realm of physical and moral danger. By using their sexuality to the state’s advantage, they defied traditional British gender roles, provoking a "moral crisis" upon their return. During their service in agencies such as MI5 and MI6, women were revered for their efforts. However, after the Wars’ end, the appreciation towards these women’s acts of courage was quickly discarded and replaced with an urgency to return them to their domestic roles. Elise Grandprez, Yvonne Cormeau, Krystyna Skarbek, Vera Atkins, Louise de Bettignies and Virgina Hall are just a few of the many women whose service in British Intelligence was overlooked in postwar biographies and commemorations in order to restore gender normalities.
VANESSA MEDEIROS is a fourth year student at Huron University College completing an Honours Specialization in History with a Minor in English. Her research interests include British and North American social histories, as well as military history. Next year, she plans to pursue the M.A. history program at Western University.
"British Women in Espionage: From Heroes to Housewives,"
Liberated Arts: a journal for undergraduate research:
1, Article 10.
Available at: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/lajur/vol1/iss1/10