Women Who Code

During World War II, the Allies used more than just guns and bombs to win. They also used cryptologists, who exchanged and protected information through encryption and coding. Many of those cryptologists were women. Thousands of women operated code-breaking machines, analyzed and broke enemy codes, built libraries of resources on enemy operations, intercepted radio signals, and tested the security of Allied communications. These women’s stories, long forgotten and buried, are brought to life through the following resources.

Search Terms

Bletchly Park

Betty Webb


Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Enigma machine

Government Code and Cypher School

Hedy Lamarr

Jane Fawcett

Jean Valentine

Joan Clarke

Lorenz Cipher

Mavis Batey

Women and cryptanalysts


All resources are provided in MLA format.

Baraniuk, Chris. “The Female Code-Breakers Who Were Left out of History Books.” BBC Future, BBC, 2017. bbc.com/future/article/20171009-the-female-code-breakers-who-were-left-out-of-history-books.

This article details the women who made significant, high-level roles in breaking secret codes – from Nazi ciphers to the secret messages of Al Capone’s gang.

Mundy, Liza. “The Secret History of the Female Code Breakers Who Helped Defeat the Nazis.” POLITICO Magazine, Politico, 2017. politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/10/the-secret-history-of-the-women-code-breakers-who-helped-defeat-the-nazis-215694/.

This article details the more than 10,000 women, recruited by the Navy and Army, as ‘cryptanalysts’ to decipher enemy codes during World War II.

Mundy, Liza. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. Hachette Books, 2018.

Call number: D810 .C88 M86 2017

This book, a New York Times best seller, is about the American women whose code breaking efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them.

Purnell, Sonia. A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. Viking, 2020.

This book, a New York Times best seller, is about Virginia Hall, the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines. She helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.

Quinn Kate. Rose Code. Harper-Collins Publishers, 2022.

This book is about three women who work tirelessly in secrecy to defeat the Nazis through their codebreaking skills.

Rose, Sarah. D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II. Sphere, 2020.

This book, a national best-seller, draws on recently de­classified files, diaries, and oral histories to tell the thrilling story of three remarkable women who destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence—laying the groundwork for the D-Day invasion that proved to be the turning point in the war.

“Women in Bletchley Park.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Bletchley_Park. 6.14.2022

This online article, published to Wikipedia, is about the 8,000 women who worked in Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II. This article provides useful background information on this fascinating topic, and numerous sources for further reading.

National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS). “Cryptologic History Overview.” NSA/CSS. nsa.gov/History/Cryptologic-History/Center-Cryptologic-History/. 6.14.2022

This web page, published on the official website of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, points to authoritative sources about cryptanalysts during World War II.

Weber, Bruce. “Jane Fawcett, British Decoder Who Helped Doom the Bismarck, Dies at 95.” The New York Times, 2016. .nytimes.com/2016/05/30/obituaries/jane-fawcett-british-decoder-who-helped-doom-the-bismarck-dies-at-95.html.

This obituary, published in the New York Times, details the amazing life of Jane Fawcett, who worked at Bletchley park, the home of British code-breaking during World War II. She is credited with identifying a message that led to a great Allied naval success.

Wei-Haas, Maya. “How the American Women Codebreakers of WWII Helped Win the War.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 2017. smithsonianmag.com/history/how-women-codebreakers-wwii-helped-win-war-180965058/.

This article details the triumphs and challenges of women who worked behind the scenes of wartime intelligence.