Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II is a 2017 novel written by American journalist and writer Liza Mundy. It tells the story of the thousands of young women who were recruited by the US Army and Navy to crack German and Japanese codes during the Second World War.
Crossword puzzles are designed to be solved, while codes and ciphers are designed to prevent solution. With codes, you have to be prepared to work for months — for years — and fail.
The women were of a unique and overlooked generation. Many were born in 1920, the historic year when American women won the right to vote. Their early life was led in an atmosphere of broadening opportunity.
The novel received mainly positive reviews, especially for its entertaining and often empowering narrative. Mundy tells us how women were seen and treated during the World War II period, and gives insight into their interesting lifestyles, as they tried to battle stereotypes and reshape gender roles.
It was not easy being a smart girl in the 1940s. People thought you were annoying.
In 1942, only about 4 percent of American women had completed four years of college.
Mundy also describes how these women affected the outcome of the Second World War, and explains how without their knowledge, determination, intelligence, and resilience, the Allies wouldn’t have achieved the successes that they achieved during the war.
Through their brainwork, the women had an impact on the fighting that went on.
Educators worried that they might encourage women to pursue math and science who would then be left high and dry. One electrical company asked for twenty female engineers from Goucher, with the added request, “Select beautiful ones for we don’t want them on our hands after the war.”
An interesting element of the book are the first hand experiences that the author shares with the readers, from her interviews with some of these courageous women. The stories were honest and motivational, and some of them even sparked feelings of anger in female readers, especially those who actively fight for women’s rights.
In science, there is something called a “jackpot effect,” where a male scientist hires women in his lab early in the development of a certain field, and these women hire other talented women, and, as a result, the field ends up with an unusually high number of women. Something like this was at work in cryptanalysis. A few key women proved themselves gifted, early on; a few key men were willing to hire and encourage.