Book Summary: Code Girls by Liza Mundy

Code Girls by Liza Mundy Book Cover

Code Girls is a non-fiction book written by Liza Mundy that tells the story of the women who played a crucial role in the history of computing. The book sheds light on the significant contributions of female programmers during World War II, a time when the field of computing was still in its infancy.

Chapter 1: The Women Who Kept the Secret

The first chapter of Code Girls introduces the reader to the top-secret world of code breaking. During World War II, the US government established a program called the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) to recruit women for various military jobs. Among these women were a select group of mathematicians and linguists who were tasked with breaking enemy codes. These women were sworn to secrecy and their work remained classified for decades.

Chapter 2: The Recruitment of Women in Computing

In the second chapter, Mundy describes how the US government began to realize the importance of computing in the war effort. As men were sent overseas to fight, there was a need for more workers to operate the new electronic computers that were being developed. Women were seen as ideal candidates for these jobs due to their mathematical skills and attention to detail.

Chapter 3: The Top Secret Laboratories

The third chapter takes the reader inside the top-secret laboratories where the first electronic computers were developed. These laboratories were run by men, but women were crucial to their success. They were responsible for programming the machines and running the calculations that were necessary to test and improve the technology.

Chapter 4: The Enigma Machine

In the fourth chapter, Mundy describes the effort to crack the Enigma machine, a device used by the German military to encrypt their communications. The US government recruited a group of female mathematicians to work on this problem, and they were eventually successful in breaking the code. This achievement was kept secret until after the war.

Chapter 5: The Colossus Machine

The fifth chapter tells the story of the development of the Colossus machine, the first electronic computer. This machine was used to break codes during the war, and it was programmed by women. The Colossus was a revolutionary technology, but its existence was kept secret for many years.

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Chapter 6: The Postwar Era

In the sixth chapter, Mundy describes how the women who worked in computing during the war were pushed out of the field as men returned from overseas. However, their contributions were not forgotten, and they paved the way for future generations of women in computing.


Code Girls is a fascinating book that tells the story of the women who played a crucial role in the history of computing. These women were brave and talented, and their contributions were essential to the Allied victory in World War II. Mundy’s book is a testament to their legacy and a reminder of the important role that women have played in the field of science and technology.

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