A groundbreaking history of women in British intelligence, revealing their pivotal role across the first half of the twentieth century
From the twentieth century onward, women took on an extraordinary range of roles in intelligence, defying the conventions of their time. Across both world wars, far from being a small part of covert operations, women ran spy networks and escape lines, parachuted behind enemy lines, and interrogated prisoners. And, back in Bletchley and Whitehall, women’s vital administrative work in MI offices kept the British war engine running.
In this major, panoramic history, Helen Fry looks at the rich and varied work women undertook as civilians and in uniform. From spies in the Belgian network “La Dame Blanche,” knitting coded messages into jumpers, to those who interpreted aerial images and even ran entire sections, Fry shows just how crucial women were in the intelligence mission. Filled with hitherto unknown stories, Women in Intelligence places new research on record for the first time and showcases the inspirational contributions of these remarkable women.
About the Author
Historian and biographer Helen Fry is the author of The Walls Have Ears, Spymaster, MI9, and more than twenty books on intelligence, prisoners of war, and the social history of World War II. She appears regularly in media interviews and podcasts and has been involved in numerous documentaries.
“[Fry] has fulfilled the task she set herself: that of putting these women on the map, testifying to their number and courage and providing an invaluable handbook for future scholars.”—Caroline Moorehead, The Spectator
“Sexy female spies are a myth and women in intelligence looked more like secretaries than Bond girls.”—Anita Singh, The Telegraph
“Fry’s work does justice to her subject matter: it’s prodigious—at times dizzying. She has seemingly accomplished an impossible task: documenting every morsel of information about women working for MI5, MI6, and Britain’s various intelligence sub-agencies form WWI through WWII.”—I. S. Berry, Spy Talk
“Beware—this is a book full of danger and deception, sabotage and secret codes, and some brilliant, unstoppable women.”—Clare Mulley, author of The Spy Who Loved
“This account is long overdue. Helen Fry redresses the relative neglect of the contribution of women as intelligence officers and agents during and between the two world wars, with gripping personal stories of bravery, grit and analytic brilliance.”—Sir David Omand GCB, former director of GCHQ
“A superb introduction to the role of women in some of the most fascinating and secretive organisations of the two world wars. Fry brings to the fore stories of bravery, self-sacrifice and the ingenuity of women working in intelligence, all told with her usual inimitable style.”—Kate Vigurs, author of Mission France
“Much needed and extremely important. I was hooked from start to finish and found it very emotionally evocative. There has never been an attempt to bring together all the strands of the story, and this book shows the full and impressive picture of women’s contributions in two world wars.”—Sarah-Louise Miller, author of The Women Behind the Few
“A fascinating, minutely researched study of women in the espionage business.”—Nigel West, author of Spies Who Changed History