Helen Laville – Women and the CIA

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Dr Helen Laville (University of Birmingham) – Women and the CIA

This paper takes two different approaches to women and the CIA. Firstly it assess the experience of women within the CIA, some of whom have alleged that the CIA operated a ‘macho culture’ in which women’s contributions and opportunities for promotion are limited.  This paper reviews recent biographies of women in the CIA, arguing that such an approach is significant, not only in what it might tell us about the experience of individual women, but also for what it reveals about the institutional ‘gender culture’ within the CIA.  The second half of this paper argues that as women’s rights since WW2 have became an ever important component of political relations, the CIA has had to take more seriously the issue of women as a subject of their work. This article suggests the development of women and women’s rights as a subject of CIA interest, focusing on operation in Chile and on recent campaigns in Afghanistan.

Helen Laville is a Senior Lecturer in American History in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham.  She has published widely on women’s groups and international relations, including her monograph, Cold War Women Manchester University Press, 2002) and ‘The Committee of Correspondence – CIA funding of Women’s groups, 1952-1967’, in Eternal Vigilance? 50 Years of the CIA, Rhodri Jeffrey-Jones and Christopher Andrews (eds)  (1997).

Contact details: Dr Helen Laville, Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.

Email  h.laville@bham.ac.uk

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