“Women were more than placeholders for the men. Women were active war agents. Through their brainwork, the women had an impact on the fighting that went on. This is an important truth, and it is one that often has been overlooked.”
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II is a fascinating look at the female cryptographers who played a crucial role in our military intelligence in the 1940s.
Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.
What particular skills and characteristics did the Army and Navy look for in the women recruited to their code-breaking programs? How were stereotypes about women employed or challenged in the recruitment effort?
Some of the code girls were affected by the extended secrecy of their work. How might keeping secrets, however necessary, affect a person’s relationships or her identity in the world?
Why do you think these women’s contributions to cryptanalysis remained a secret for so long?
Mundy suggests that “many of the code-breaking women . . . advance[d] the feminist movement.” Do you agree?
In January 2016, the American armed services finally lifted a ban on women serving in positions of direct combat. What challenges do you think women still face in the military today?