The Forum: Journal of History


Kali deVarennes


This paper explores the representation of female FBI agents in newspapers throughout the 1970s until the early 1990s. While this subject is not widely discussed, due to lack of exposure and research, this paper reveals how crucial these women were during this period as they redefined how society and male FBI agents viewed women in previously male-dominated fields. In 1970, the media responded to these women with a variety of assumptions and stereotypes defining women as sex objects, physically weak, and mentally unable to handle the dangerous work environment. Through examination of scholarly and primary sources, this paper uncovers the media’s integral role in influencing the public’s view of women by reinforcing these stereotypes, and explores why the shift a opinions occurred in later decades. In the early 1970s, journalists focused on the women themselves as their attitudes reflected the negative stereotypes about women that Hoover’s administration engrained into the bureau and public, while in later periods journalists expressed their concerns with institutional issues within the FBI and the negative perceptions of female agents from their male colleagues. The reason for this shift was that as the decade progressed and Hoover’s legacy dwindled, women proved their capabilities in the workforce. As a result, journalists shifted to focusing on whether the FBI complied with these new policies and how the public and male agents adjusted to this transition. This paper is divided into two categories: sources in the 1970s and sources in the 1980s to early 1990s which aids readers in observing the clear shift between these two critical decades.