Book review: The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a fascinating biography of Elizebeth Smith, a woman who, along with her better known husband–William Friedman–was responsible for the creation of the field of cryptology. She pioneered methods of decryption, broke German codes (including Enigma machine codes that the Germans thought were unbreakable), and changed the role of intelligence gathering forever. Needless to say, by both her own choice and society’s preferences, her role in the field of cryptology is relatively obscure. (It didn’t help that J. Edgar Hoover made sure that the FBI received credit for many of her successes.)
The author uses materials from Elizebeth’s own files, newly unclassified materials from World War II, and interviews of her to tell her story. The result is a highly engaging, highly readable story of a formidable woman who took little credit for herself, her pioneering role, and her resounding successes, which played a pivotal role in the Allied victories over Germany.
I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in cryptology, World War II, and/or the role of women during this period.

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