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Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II
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Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  14,144 ratings  ·  2,330 reviews
In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers durin
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Hardcover, 640 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Hachette Books
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L. O'Neil This is not/not* fiction of any sort. It is not a memoir either.

*In diplomatic cables, "not/not" is used for negative emphasis and to avoid typograph…more
This is not/not* fiction of any sort. It is not a memoir either.

*In diplomatic cables, "not/not" is used for negative emphasis and to avoid typographical errors

The subject is American History and Military History, documented with a section of notes referring to archival material such as oral histories, photographs, declassified government documents, letters, speeches, and interviews with the few remaining women who broke millions of encrypted messages.
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Julie Barnard
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
My mother was in the Navy during World War II doing code breaking; she was at Terminal Island near Long Beach in Southern California. She had been a classics major in college, studying Latin and Greek. The book was fascinating and made me wish that I could talk to her and ask the dozens of questions I never did.
Katie B
4.5 stars

So glad I finally got around to reading this one as it was everything I hoped it would be. I love reading books that showcase remarkable women doing extraordinary things. Highly recommend if you enjoy non-fiction, history about World War 2, and/or books that celebrate the achievements of women.

Having watched the movie The Imitation Game, I had some basic knowledge about codebreaking during World War 2, but this book really gave me a much better understanding, particularly the important
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Kaitlyn Red Wing
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I was provided with a free copy of this book by NetGalley and Little, Brown in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

I'm always game for a book centered around World War II. Add women and their major role and you've got me hooked. Code Girls is like taking a walk through history. A walk that is so rarely acknowledged and respected. While men were oversees fighting, women stepped up, Mundy gives a thorough history of the U.S. recruitments of women to break enemy codes. Over ten t
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Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
Beginning in 1941 secret letters were sent across the country to women attending college requesting their service for the war effort. Tens of thousands of women from prestigious northeastern colleges, southern teaching schools, and many other walks of life answered the calls of the U.S Navy and Army to serve as code breakers during World War II.
These unsung heroes left their small-towns, big cities, and families behind to work on their secret mission - one which would help win the war. Sworn t
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Kat
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library-2
This was an interesting look at the process by which women were recruited, trained and sent to work in code-breaking facilities for the American military during World War Two. I’ve been enjoying some of these untold slices of history, and this was another really cool one, following young girls, mostly right out of college with few prospects other than teaching school (and making up for there being teacher shortages by covering classes for multiple missing teachers in oversized classrooms).

The b
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Lisa
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
The Interesting Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers who Helped Win World War II


SUMMARY
More than 10,000 women served as codebreakers during World War II. They were recruited by both the US Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges. While their brothers and boyfriend took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code breaking. Their effort shorten the war, save countless lives and gave them extra access to careers which had been previously de
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Katie
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
A really hard to follow but ultimately rewarding book. Liza Mundy (mostly) describes the experiences of two code breakers: Dot and Ruth. Through their eyes, we are able to see the inner workings of what was one of the most secretive US operations during WWII.

This book is a treasure trove of information. These women were responsible for saving thousands of lives--and on the other hand, they bore the weight of destroying thousands of others; most notably they broke the code that allowed the US to
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Cynthia
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Though I've long been interested in the WWll code work all my reading up until now was about Bletchley Park and the work the Brits did so Code Girls was a welcome addition to my ongoing quest for understanding of this topic. The focus stays firmly on the women's perspective which was a welcome though often frustrating outlook. The often very young women, new college grads or even teenagers, accomplished amazing things while getting little credit. Sometimes the men fulfilled strereotypes of how w ...more
Faith
Aug 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe this was a case of having too much research material available and not wanting to waste any of it. However, I thought that this book contained way too much information about train rides, living accommodations, letters to soldiers, engagements and other domestic details. There was also a problem of having too many names. While I believe that it’s a good thing for all of these women to get recognition, none of them stood out to me, and the book became a recitation of names. I was hoping for ...more
Kristy K
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2018
3.5 Stars

If you enjoyed The Radium Girls and Hidden Figures then you'll like Code Girls.

Mundy brings to life the young women who helped shape and changed the course of WWII. This portion of history has been largely left out of history books and schools (partially due to secrecy restrictions, partially because so much of women's role in history is skimmed over), so most of this information was new to me. I loved learning about these unsung heroines.

Thank you to Hachette Books for sending me a co
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Leslie Anderson
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Code Girls has very interesting moments, but unfortunately they end suddenly and return to repetitive convincing that women were important in breaking codes. Now I think this story deserves to be told but the book was good when we met one of the girls, like Dot and had a chance to hear her story. It is unfortunate that this was followed by chapters of history book excerpts from the the female perspective before we heard the story of another girl.
To be honest I was disappointed because I love th
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Jean
I first heard about women code breakers in a historical fiction book by D. M. Sorlie. The heroine in the Sue Lee Series was recruited and trained to be a cryptographer by the Army. When I saw this book, I thought it might fill in my gap of knowledge on the subject.

During World War One many women were recruited as Code breakers but as soon as the war was over they were sent home and told the secrecy oath was still effective. They were forgotten over time by the historians. During World War Two mo
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Jackballoon
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bound-book
I enjoyed this book tremendously, never having known that women were also codebreakers. My Dad was one who never talked about it. He was one of the those who was evacuated off Correigedor, by submarine, just before it fell. (Page 133) He was missing in action for awhile, and landed in Australia. He was in Navy communications for 30 years, but none of us ever knew what he did. I bet if he were alive now, he still wouldn't answer any questions. ...more
Lindsay Nixon
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
America exists by the grace of incredible women.

This book adds to a long line of books I’ve read about the real heroes of WW2. its shocking to me to see just how far and vast white male privilege exists in America, to the point where hundreds of important white women, and both men and women of color, are blatantly omitted from our history books, even though we could not have won without their smarts or service.
Joy Smith
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This story--and the identities of the code girls--was classified for years. It's a fascinating look at our history and how these incredible and intelligent women helped us win the war. Their work of decoding and translating Japanese and German communications (and others) had to be kept secret so our enemies couldn't learn why our military so often was able to destroy u-boats and ships of all kinds, and it helped us on the islands that the Japanese held. Back in the day women weren't encouraged t ...more
Harris
Oct 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
My expectations of what this book would entail vs. what it actually contained is part of the reason for the 1 star rating. I thought the book would have a heavy focus on the decoding operations and discuss the roles of some of the codebreakers. Very little of the book talked about the actual cryptanalysis and how it was accomplished. I applaud the author's desire to pay homage to these unsung heroes who saved countless lives through the tireless efforts to crack these difficult codes. My issue i ...more
Betsy
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An informative book mainly about the women who helped to break the codes of the Germans and Japanese during WWII. The author concentrates on a few of the women, showing how they were encouraged to use math and language skills to aid their country. Besides, the women such as Agnes Driscoll, there are many who receive a mention in passing, who came by the thousands to Washington, to the Midwest, basically to anywhere they were needed, except overseas, although a few even did that.

There was quite a
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Lauren Stoolfire
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war
I've always been been interested in learning more about women's involvement in WWII, whether on that's on the homefront, in the service, or industry, and this non-fiction book focusing on American women code breakers recruited by the Army (WAC) and Navy (WAVES) is fascinating. Before listening to this audiobook, I didn't know much about American code breaking in WWII because most of what nonfiction I've read has focused more on the British with Bletchley Park. Definitely a must read for anyone i ...more
Karin
Strong writing and strong women make this a strong read that I recommend. Why not 4 stars? Well, it takes a lot for me to give it 5 stars--this was definitely over 4.

What I like about this is that Mundy is able to follow some of the women until the 21st century so we can see what happened to them post-war. I am also happy that this history is finally hitting the mainstream, although I do hope the push against women in STEM fields doesn't swing to the extreme the other way, either--we still need
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Loraine
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww-ii, non-fiction
This is the interesting and untold story of the over 10,000 young women who became code breakers during World War II. Women were just beginning to attend college and some were smart enough and brave enough to pursue careers in math and sciences that had previously been dominated by men alone. Others were majoring or spoke foreign languages. Many were schoolteachers. But they all received secret letters from the Army or Navy inviting them, after careful screening, to train and join a select group ...more
victor harris
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-two
I really enjoyed the stories of the women who were recruited and how they adapted to the high pressure requirements of the job. They certainly had an impressive collection of talent. Their romantic adventures and misadventures were also interesting. Amazingly their critical role in the war was condemned to obscurity for decades because they were sworn to absolute silence about their code breaking assignments. Unfortunately some never received the recognition they deserved. The value of their ski ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Summary: A perfect narrative nonfiction blend of personal stories, global events, and a history of code breaking.

"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
...more
Ed
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, well-written account of the women code breakers and their unsung major impact on the Allied victory of World War Two. The parts about how the German and Japanese code was set up was a little above my head, but I've never liked math. The book gives a flavor of what life was like during the war. The descriptions of how America celebrated the victory are awe-inspiring. Vint Hill is mentioned. I once taught college English classes on the Army base. Great stuff! ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Code Girls is a terrific oral history and more. Liza Mundy, a journalist, interviewed dozens of people, scoured government documents, studied contemporary newspaper and journal articles, and tapped a wealth of books, videos, and web pages to tell the previously untold story of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of women who cracked codes during World War II. Many were recruited from universities, some hired on with the U.S. Government, some joined the WACS or WAVES. They moved to the Washington, ...more
TXGAL1
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Liza Mundy has written a thoroughly researched book about the CODE GIRLS of World War II. Differing recruitment techniques were used beginning in late 1941 by the United States Navy—discreet selection of seniors astute in math, foreign languages and critical thinking from elite women’s colleges in the Northeast; and, by the U S Army’s selection of code breakers using handsome male recruiters sent to teaching colleges in the South and Midwest. As more women were needed to fill the sensitive secur ...more
Rick
“Code Girls” by Liza Mundy was a delightful story, and one not told before. This book joins that genre that has been abuilding about barely known or almost forgotten groups – often women – whose untold or rarely told stories show how much they have contributed to the progress of our nation. For example, the book (by Margot Lee Shetterly) and movie (Hidden Figures) about the African-American women who helped advance the space program. Other narratives such as those on the Tuskegee Airmen and WASP ...more
Elizabeth
Feb 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is similar to Hidden Figures in that it details an important role women played in history. This book specifically addresses the need to hire women to crack codes in the 1940s. I’m not a fan of history but this was an interesting read, especially the technical aspects of learning to break codes. As a fan of puzzles and logic games, I would have loved this profession!

I was also interested because my grandmother, born in 1900, worked as a clerk typist for the US government in the 1940s i
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Eric
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating! Made more so, because this is what my Aunt did during WWII while an officer in the WAVES.

These ladies had to battle the inequalities with the male work force, petty politics between services and oh, excuse me, there was a war going on with shortages of everything. It took patience and brilliant minds to crack enemy codes and these young girls (most just in their twenties) had both. Long, long hours knowing that every message they broke could save numerous lives of the Allied service
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Liesl
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Good, but not without flaws. I liked learning about these forgotten women of history and the vital role that they played during World War II; in that respect, the book reminded me of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. I would have preferred for Mundy to have focused on a handful of women from the group to highlight; as presented, there is an overwhelming amount of ladies to keep straight along with lots of gene ...more
Mal Warwick
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
It's often said that winners write the history. And it's true that until recently the winners in the gender wars—men—have written most of the history books. Only over the past few decades have the contributions of women begun to show up in published accounts of the past. Until just a few decades ago, a book like Code Girls would have been extremely unlikely to be published. Or, if it had reached print, to gain the wide audience it has.

The Enigma and Purple codes are only part of the story

If you'
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Liza Mundy is the New York Times bestselling author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family and Michelle: A Biography. She has worked as a reporter at the Washington Post and contributed to numerous publications including The Atlantic, TIME, The New Republic, Slate, Mother Jones, and The Guardian. She is a frequent commentator on countles ...more

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“It was not easy being a smart girl in the 1940s. People thought you were annoying.” 9 likes
“In 1942, only about 4 percent of American women had completed four years of college.” 3 likes
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