Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Strength: Women Who Answered When Duty Called

 

Young, adventurous and a self-admitted disaster in the kitchen, Julia Child had big plans. Her love of life and breaking boundaries led her into the world of intelligence. Taking up the mantle of spy, she ventured to exotic locations like Sri Lanka and China. While working as a research assistant for “the” William Donovan, her “first recipe” was a shark repellent she developed for the OSS, an agency later renamed the CIA.

She met her husband, also an OSS agent, and moved to France, while falling in love with the cuisine. Julia attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school for six months and studied privately with master chef Max Bugnard. Julia became convinced that French cooking could be simplified for the masses and The Art of French Cooking was born. Julia Child, an American woman who broke the boundaries of the enemy, as well as complicated French cooking through strength of spirit, patriotism and passion for life. Bon Appetit! 


German-born Marlene Dietrich was a sultry, sexy screen siren, rising in Hollywood as a fiery force to be reckoned with. As a successful woman in a male-dominated industry, dodging casting couch cads and red-carpet glitz, Marlene had a larger purpose. Hitler’s ugly war machine was tearing apart her beloved homeland. She refused lucrative contracts offered in Germany and used her contacts, growing wealth and property to help Jews escape Europe to America.

She performed for the troops, sold war bonds, and worked with Director Billy Wilder. Together they funded the escapes of many talented European Jews, actors, writers, musicians, even housing them and finding them work. While trying to break into the Hollywood scene, the Jewish refugees worked as cooks, dishwashers, maids, any means to root themselves in freedom and begin again. Many of the actors in the movie Casablanca, both behind and in front of the camera, were refugees from the Nazi nightmare, and thanks to Marlene Dietrich. Through strength of character and purpose, she pushed back against evil.


Dutch-born Audrey Hepburn loved to dance, and studied ballet and acting, but also bore the heartbreak of WWII. Her uncle was executed and a brother was hauled off to a labor camp. Yet a steely inner strength emerged and pushed her to join the war effort against the Nazis. She worked with the Resistance, smuggling messages and money inside her ballet shoes. She went on to become a beloved icon of American films.


What do you do as a young woman with a fresh degree from Wellesley, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Bernard, Radcliffe and suddenly, within days of each other, the United States declares war on both Germany and Japan? A tranquil future is turned upside down as you watch your brothers, friends, neighbors, and fiancés being called away to war.

Suddenly, thousands of letters from the US Armed Forces showed up in mailboxes all across women’s colleges offering “job interviews.” They were directed mainly at math, science, and language majors — women with skills for detail. Thus began the recruitment of thousands of women called Code Girls, who relocated to Washington DC for, unbeknownst to them until they arrived, jobs in cryptology. They could tell no one of their mission: to break the codes of Germany and Japan.

Grueling, monotonous long days in cramped, hot quarters were spent staring at numbers, graphs, looking for patterns, and deciphering the enemy’s next move. The codes were extremely complicated and changed daily, sometimes several times a day. Yet through sheer strength of will and grit, they persevered. Every minute counted — failure could mean a sunk ship filled with soldiers and possibly loved ones.

The Code Girls by Liza Mundy tells the tale of these heroic women who helped break Germany’s Enigma, the Rubik’s Cube of the Japanese message system, and saved thousands of lives while shortening the war, but never spoke of their achievements.


Sheer strength of will, patriotism, selflessness and wanting to serve their country in need, these trailblazing women worked tirelessly to help save freedom and democracy for all.

 

There are 24 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    I like what you did here. Of course, we should not forget Hedy Lamarr.


    This conversation is an entry in our Group Writing Series under March’s theme of Feats of Strength. If you might have similar tales to tale, or would tell one of these in more depth, perhaps you want to hop over to our schedule and sign-up sheet and pick one of the open dates.

    • #1
    • March 10, 2018, at 7:11 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. Vectorman Thatcher

    Front Seat Cat: They were directed mainly at math, science and language majors, women with skills for detail. Thus began the recruitment of thousands of women called Code Girls, who relocated to Washington D.C., for, unbeknownst to them until they arrived, jobs in cryptology.

    Although not a true cryptologist, my mother joined the Army in WWII and had to pass a top secret clearance to run various U.S. cypher machines. Her major skill was crossword puzzles, but she was also good at math and detail work.

    I’ve only held a secret clearance, by the way…

    • #2
    • March 10, 2018, at 7:21 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat: They were directed mainly at math, science and language majors, women with skills for detail. Thus began the recruitment of thousands of women called Code Girls, who relocated to Washington D.C., for, unbeknownst to them until they arrived, jobs in cryptology.

    Although not a true cryptologist, my mother joined the Army in WWII and had to pass a top secret clearance to run various U.S. cypher machines. Her major skill was crossword puzzles, but she was also good at math and detail work.

    I’ve only held a secret clearance, by the way…

    Good story! My mother in law is 82 and still doing crossword puzzles – she has a good memory – there must be something to working your brain like that. I can’t imagine the stress of trying to decipher these codes under such pressure – life or death, but they did it.

    • #3
    • March 10, 2018, at 7:59 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I like what you did here. Of course, we should not forget Hedy Lamarr.


    This conversation is an entry in our Group Writing Series under March’s theme of Feats of Strength. If you might have similar tales to tale, or would tell one of these in more depth, perhaps you want to hop over to our schedule and sign-up sheet and pick one of the open dates.

    Hedy Lamarr? Wow! Great story Arahant!

    • #4
    • March 10, 2018, at 8:00 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. David Foster Member

    Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville

    • #5
    • March 10, 2018, at 9:06 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    David Foster (View Comment):
    Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville

    David – Outstanding story – amazing strength and courage – this story could be its own post – thank you for sharing it.

    • #6
    • March 10, 2018, at 9:23 AM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Dan Hanson Thatcher

    Wonderful article.

    I’d like to add the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS)

    Or in the Commonwealth, the Air Transport Auxiliary. These women were civilian pilots who did very dangerous flying in the war, ferrying new aircraft from North America to Europe. Or from facories and repair depots in Britain back to the front line airfields. They ferried everything from fighter jets to heavy bombers, in terrible weather across some of the most dangerous flying routes in the world. They had minimal navigation resources and were often flying aircraft at the extreme limits of their ranges. Often the planes were unarmed, so if they were discovered by the enemy they were sitting ducks.

    Thirty eight WASPS lost their lives for that mission. Eighteen women in the ATA also died.

    • #7
    • March 10, 2018, at 11:46 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  8. Ekosj Inactive

    I’d like to toss in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City” … The true story of the top-secret WWII town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there to help produce the fuel for the atomic bomb.

    • #8
    • March 10, 2018, at 12:55 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. David Foster Member

    Also very worthy of mention and remembrance: Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens, code name Amniarix, who died just last August. She obtained from the Germans, and passed to the British, information about the highly-secret V-1 and V-2 rocket and cruise-missile programs.

    • #9
    • March 10, 2018, at 1:34 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. She Thatcher
    She

    Wonderful, wonderful post. From my own family, can I add “Aunty Betty” to the list:

    At the outbreak of World War II, Betty joined the Royal Signals Corps and learned Morse Code. She worked all over England as a ‘decoder,’ of German messages and in 1941 was posted to London, working underground at Whitehall, where she remained for the rest of the war. She loved her job, and the sense of camaraderie she felt with all the other members of the Corps.

    One Sunday morning in 1944, Betty missed Chapel devotions in Wellington Barracks because she had worked the night through and had been sent home to rest. The Chapel took a direct hit from a German bomb during the service, and 121 people were killed. Betty never forgot.

    And, from the annals of entertainment, Miss Vera Lynn (still going strong at the age of 100–she’ll be 101 the week after next):

    • #10
    • March 10, 2018, at 1:52 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Dan Hanson (View Comment):
    Wonderful article.

    I’d like to add the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS)

    Or in the Commonwealth, the Air Transport Auxiliary. These women were civilian pilots who did very dangerous flying in the war, ferrying new aircraft from North America to Europe. Or from facories and repair depots in Britain back to the front line airfields. They ferried everything from fighter jets to heavy bombers, in terrible weather across some of the most dangerous flying routes in the world. They had minimal navigation resources and were often flying aircraft at the extreme limits of their ranges. Often the planes were unarmed, so if they were discovered by the enemy they were sitting ducks.

    Thirty eight WASPS lost their lives for that mission. Eighteen women in the ATA also died.

    Outstanding ! Thank you for bringing this to the discussion and God bless their service.

    • #11
    • March 10, 2018, at 3:30 PM PST
    • Like
  12. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    I’d like to toss in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City” … The true story of the top-secret WWII town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there to help produce the fuel for the atomic bomb.

    Can you elaborate ? I’ve not heard of this.

    • #12
    • March 10, 2018, at 3:31 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    David Foster (View Comment):
    Also very worthy of mention and remembrance: Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens, code name Amniarix, who died just last August. She obtained from the Germans, and passed to the British, information about the highly-secret V-1 and V-2 rocket and cruise-missile programs.

    @davidfoster – you have some excellent material here – I noted your outstanding blog story that you shared was 2010 – please ! Give us more! Through Ricochet of course!

    • #13
    • March 10, 2018, at 3:32 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    She (View Comment):
    Wonderful, wonderful post. From my own family, can I add “Aunty Betty” to the list:

    At the outbreak of World War II, Betty joined the Royal Signals Corps and learned Morse Code. She worked all over England as a ‘decoder,’ of German messages and in 1941 was posted to London, working underground at Whitehall, where she remained for the rest of the war. She loved her job, and the sense of camaraderie she felt with all the other members of the Corps.

    One Sunday morning in 1944, Betty missed Chapel devotions in Wellington Barracks because she had worked the night through and had been sent home to rest. The Chapel took a direct hit from a German bomb during the service, and 121 people were killed. Betty never forgot.

    And, from the annals of entertainment, Miss Vera Lynn (still going strong at the age of 100–she’ll be 101 the week after next):

    Go Aunt Betty! Such a courageous woman and inspiration for the women of today. Great story – thanks for sharing it!

    • #14
    • March 10, 2018, at 3:34 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    I never knew that about Audrey Hepburn, that’s good to know (I think I have a mental bias deriving from the fact that my sisters used to outvote me in favor of Audrey Hepburn movies, which tend not to be suited to a young boys tastes).

    Here’s an amusing OT (and NSFW) link, I’ll use any excuse to post an Epic Rap Battle:

    • #15
    • March 10, 2018, at 5:49 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Darn! I missed your post (Saturday)! At least I caught up with this one. What amazing stories of courage. I loved each one, and am enjoying the comments, too. If feminists want to feature terrific women, here are a few to pick from. Thanks, FSC.

    • #16
    • March 11, 2018, at 5:03 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Bea Arthur was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve where she worked as a truck driver and typist until September 1944. Her first marriage was to fellow Marine Robert Alan Aurthur, a screenwriter, television and film producer, and director.

    However, she later denied this on camera even though photos and evidence exists.

    • #17
    • March 11, 2018, at 5:05 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Jimmy Carter Member

    I enjoyed Yer post, FSC.

    Really well written.

    A+

    Go to the head of the class.

    • #18
    • March 11, 2018, at 6:58 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    I enjoyed Yer post, FSC.

    Really well written.

    A+

    Go to the head of the class.

    I haven’t had an A+ in a long time! Thank you

    • #19
    • March 12, 2018, at 6:33 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Ekosj Inactive

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    I’d like to toss in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City” … The true story of the top-secret WWII town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there to help produce the fuel for the atomic bomb.

    Can you elaborate ? I’ve not heard of this.

    @frontseatcat

    Apparently Oak Ridge Tennessee was the sleepy backwoods middle of nowhere until somebody from the government stuck a pin in a map and said “Here” and decided this was where the US would produce enriched uranium for the bomb. Thousands of women from around the country took lucrative jobs with the stipulation that they didn’t know where they were going, didn’t know what they’d be doing, and couldn’t tell anybody once they got there! Tip Top secret.

    • #20
    • March 12, 2018, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Ekosj Inactive

    http://girlsofatomiccity.com/site_x.html

    • #21
    • March 12, 2018, at 7:17 AM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Stad Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I like what you did here. Of course, we should not forget Hedy Lamarr.

    True, true. I wonder how many Hollywood stars today have something outside of their acting? For example, Mayim Bialik has a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA, and her character in The Big Bang Theory is just that.

    • #22
    • March 12, 2018, at 11:45 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat Post author

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    I’d like to toss in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City” … The true story of the top-secret WWII town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there to help produce the fuel for the atomic bomb.

    Can you elaborate ? I’ve not heard of this.

    @frontseatcat

    Apparently Oak Ridge Tennessee was the sleepy backwoods middle of nowhere until somebody from the government stuck a pin in a map and said “Here” and decided this was where the US would produce enriched uranium for the bomb. Thousands of women from around the country took lucrative jobs with the stipulation that they didn’t know where they were going, didn’t know what they’d be doing, and couldn’t tell anybody once they got there! Tip Top secret.

    That’s an amazing story – had no idea and was never taught in history of Oak Ridge TN legacy in the war.

    • #23
    • March 12, 2018, at 12:43 PM PST
    • Like
  24. Ekosj Inactive

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    I’d like to toss in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City” … The true story of the top-secret WWII town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there to help produce the fuel for the atomic bomb.

    Can you elaborate ? I’ve not heard of this.

    @frontseatcat

    Apparently Oak Ridge Tennessee was the sleepy backwoods middle of nowhere until somebody from the government stuck a pin in a map and said “Here” and decided this was where the US would produce enriched uranium for the bomb. Thousands of women from around the country took lucrative jobs with the stipulation that they didn’t know where they were going, didn’t know what they’d be doing, and couldn’t tell anybody once they got there! Tip Top secret.

    That’s an amazing story – had no idea and was never taught in history of Oak Ridge TN legacy in the war.

    I had never heard the story either. I got interested when I read a tiny blurb in the paper about some warehouse facility in Staten Island that stored a gigantic quantity of uranium ore that the a company had bought from the mines in Belgian Congo … Even before the Manhattan Project started. Apparently for quite a while it just sat there until the project got organized. You can Google – Edgar Sengier. From there the ore went to Oak Ridge. But I never knew about the Oak Ridge story. Then I saw this book. The whole story was fascinating.

    • #24
    • March 12, 2018, at 1:18 PM PST
    • 2 likes