Women made excellent spies in WW 2 partly because of western gendered projections about them not being astute, strategic or creative enough to be a threat. Stereotypically, women were believed to be virtuous virgins or hungry vamps (as discussed in IW Episode 3). These beliefs, promoted through Allied propaganda, also allowed Ursula Kuczynski, a non-Russian Soviet spy, a colonel in the Red Army to infiltrate Britain and steal hundreds of documents from Klaus Fuchs, a nuclear physicist.
Unlike most WW 2 women spies, she was a planted as a deep cover operative. She gave the nuclear edge to Axis powers partly due to Allied cultural shadow. Chauvinistic assumptions about her intellect and strategic nature also enabled her to slip through enemy hands even after being caught connected to the Manhattan project almost 20 years later.
Ursula Kuczynski is only one of many soldiers and/or agents who are planted in foreign territory for the long haul. A good read with a broad understanding of how countries navigate deep rooted spies is Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury’s article about the counterterrorism between India and Pakistan.
Choudhury also comments on female squad units stating that the leading intelligence agencies today such as, Israeli Mossad, CIA, MI6, and Russia FSS have ‘precious’ all-female squads to “effectively collect targeted information and even accomplish various missions almost foolproof.” These successes are in part still due to women being underestimated and their roles being invisible to their targets.
Today, along with Gina Hasbe, Director of the CIA, women are the leaders in all five branches. Also, recruitment efforts are reaching out through social media platforms to further diversify their squads. The incoming classes are the largest and most uniquely diversified in a decade acknowledging the potential contributions of many marginalised groups .