Kiera Fitzgerald

Kiera Fitzgerald

Personal profile

Research projects

Techne AHRC Doctoral Studentship with The National Archives

Literary Heritage and the Public Archives: The Diverse Women of Britain’s Special Operations Executive, F Section’

This thesis aims to shed new light on the complex ways in which the efficacy and agency of Britain’s female Special Operations Executive F Section agents are constructed in history, public archives, and post-war literature including fiction, memoirs, and biographies. This cross-sectional approach to female operatives will allow for a new understanding of the ways in which femininity was perceived as an asset for undercover work during the Second World War and will offer a re-assessment of gender within the field of Intelligence studies.

The project will explore how perceptions of femininity interacted with other forms of personal identity (including class, ethnicity, disability, and ethno-religiosity) by examining four female agents recruited and deployed by F Section as documented in The National Archives: Vera Atkins, Pearl Cornioley nèe Witherington, Virginia Hall, and Noor Inayat Khan. The wartime exploits of Atkins, Cornioley, Hall and Khan are some of the most extensive files held within The National Archives’ SOE collection, with the careers of these women giving inspiration to several works of spy fiction, memoirs, and biographies alike in the post-war period.

Inspired by Rosie White’s (2007) work on female spy tropes within film, the cross-sectional research will analyse female spy tropes within post-war literature. The project will focus on 4 recurrent tropes: the female agent as the embodiment of shifting gender paradigms; the female agent as the femme fatale; the female agent as the ‘othered’ outsider; and the female agent as the subordinate, love interest. Lastly, the thesis will track how these tropes influence female agency within the broader context of espionage and whether such agency changes over time.

External positions

Lecturer (Teaching) in Holocaust Education, UCL-IOE