Magazine article The New Yorker

Agent Xx7

Magazine article The New Yorker

Agent Xx7

Article excerpt

The image of the seductive female agent frightened and fascinated people even before Mata Hari faced a French firing squad, in 1917. Not only did it tap into fears about women's treachery, but it distinguished between the government-intelligence bureaucracy and the more dangerous and romantic aspects of espionage. In FEMALE INTELLIGENCE: WOMEN AND ESPIONAGE IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (N.Y.U.), Tammy Proctor attempts to rescue female spies from cliches that classed them as either sexual predators or martyred virgins, manipulators or dupes, heartless vamps or emotional basket cases.

Elizabeth Bentley, the subject of Lauren Kessler's CLEVER GIRL: ELIZABETH BENTLEY AND THE DAWN OF THE MC CARTHY ERA (HarperCollins), fell into the latter camp--more a depressive than a femme fatale. A Communist spy while her K.G.B. lover was alive, Bentley came clean to the F. …

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