POSTPONED: International Women’s Day 2020 - Women as Agents: A History of Female Intelligencers

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Stories about spies have long captured the public’s imagination, often represented in popular culture with a mixture of bravery, mystery and intrigue. 

Traditionally, these stories are predominantly male, a few famous historical figures notwithstanding. It is only very recently that the agency of women is becoming increasingly central to narratives, both real and fictional, as female writers and historians turn to the subject. Is this indicative of a re-positioning of women’s history – and their agency – in what is largely perceived as a male domain? For International Women’s Day 2020, join us in a discussion of female intelligencers from the 17th century to the Second World War.


  • Sonia Purnell, journalist and author
  • Nadine Akkerman, Senior Lecturer/Reader in early modern English literature, University of Leiden
  • Claire Hubbard-Hall, Senior Lecturer in History, Bishop Grosseteste University

Ticket Prices

  • RUSI Members - £3.00
  • Non-members - £5.00

Speaker Biographies

Sonia Purnell is the author of A Woman of No Importance, a true-life tale of a female spy in the Second World War, Virginia Hall, a young American socialite with a wooden leg, who helped fan the flames of French Resistance. Her previous books include Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition, an unauthorised biography of Boris Johnson; and First Lady, a finalist for the Plutarch prize.

Dr Nadine Akkerman is Reader in early modern English Literature at Leiden University. An acclaimed literary historian, she is the award-winning author of Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain. She is currently putting the finishing touches to the biography of sometime Queen of Bohemia, Elizabeth Stuart, for Oxford University Press.


Dr Claire Hubbard-Hall is a historian of Second World War Intelligence History and a Senior Lecturer in History at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. Her recent work focuses on the lived experiences of secret agents and their dependents, with a special focus on spy wives. Claire is currently working on a project funded by a Janet Arnold Award from the Society of Antiquaries of London exploring the importance of dress/clothing to disguise and deception. Her monograph Hitler’s Secret Agents: The Gestapo Spy Network, 1933-45 is currently in preparation.


This event will begin at 1800 and will be followed by a drinks reception until 2000

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