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Stella Rimington: First Lady of Espionage

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Megan Hesse

on 23 October 2013

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Transcript of Stella Rimington: First Lady of Espionage

Stella Rimington: First Lady of Espionage
The MI5 Years
After two years in India, she was asked to assist another First Secretary who worked for MI5. After working at the India office for two years, she returned to London in 1969 to apply to permanently work at MI5
From 1969-1990, Rimington worked in all three branches of the Security Service: Counter Espionage, Counter Subversion and Counter Terrorism.
She was promoted to Deputy Director General in 1990.
In 1991 Rimington visited Moscow and made the first friendly contact between British Intelligence and the KGB.
She was promoted to Director-General shortly afterward in December of 1991.

Rimington served as director of MI5 from 1992-1996.
She was not only the first female director of MI5 but also the first to be publicly named while in office and the first to pose for an official public photo. She is also the first head of MI5 to publish a memoir and the only agent of her ranking to become a fiction writer.
The photo was for a brochure that ran in 1993 and aimed to create transparency between MI5 and the British public.
Used to hiding details about her job, Rimington was suddenly famous.
Inspiration for "M"
Rimington's public persona and unique position as first female head of MI5 led to her being the model for the new M in the James Bond films.
From her memoirs, Open Secret: “…I was repackaged as ‘M’, Ian Fleming’s head of MI6, and played by Judi Dench in several James Bond films. The Oxford Union asked whether Judi Dench and I would appear together to address them…”(244).
From a BBC interview:[Dench's performance was] "really very good. Both my daughters said so. One even noted that she holds her hands the way I do."
After MI5
Upon retirement in 1996 Rimington was given the title "Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath," a British order of chivalry.
In 2001, she published her memoirs, Open Secret.
In 2004,at the age of 69,her first novel, At Risk, was published
Led to the Liz Carlyle series, which encompasses seven books (with an 8th coming out next year, Close Call)
Was a chair of the judges for the 2011 Man Booker Prize (Where she sparked controversy for comparing British literary critics to the KGB).
She sits on the board of directors for the International Spy Museum
Works Cited and Interview
"Board of Directors." International Spy Museum. International Spy Museum, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.
N/A. "Dame Stella Rimington (Director General 1992-96)." Dame Stella Rimington. Security Service MI5, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.
N/A. "First Lady of Espionage." BBC News. BBC, 09 Aug. 2001. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.
N/A. "On This Day: 1993: Secret Service Goes Public." BBC News. BBC, 16 July 1993. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.
N/A. "Public Radio International." Public Radio International. Public Radio International, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.
"Profile: Stella Rimington." Spy Culture. Patrick Finucane, 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
Rimington, Stella. Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5. London: Hutchinson, 2001. Print.
"The World of Espionage with Stella Rimington." YouTube. YouTube, 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

Early Years
Born Stella Whitehouse in South London in 1935
She worked as an au pair in Paris before enrolling in the University of Edinburgh in 1954 to study English, where she met her future husband John Rimington, whom she married in 1963
She studied archive administration at the University of Liverpool in 1958 and worked as an archivist at the Worcester County Record Office in 1959
In 1965, her husband was offered a posting as First Secretary for the British High Commission in New Delhi, India.
Full transcript