The Woman All Spies Fear

The Woman All Spies Fear cover
The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life by Amy Butler Greenfield

By Amy Butler Greenfield
Random House Studio, 2021
336 pages

Age 12 and older

Elizebeth Smith’s introduction to codes and ciphers came while working for wealthy eccentric George Fabyan on a project involving a Shakespeare folio. Her future husband, William Friedman, also worked for Fabyan, who liked gathering the best and brightest around him. In fact, he was reluctant to let either Elizebeth or William leave his employment. But their growing expertise in codes and ciphers caught the attention of the military and eventually they broke free. Elizebeth was hired by the U.S. Coast Guard to help their efforts against rum smugglers. Elizebeth mastery’s of her work was rooted in a gift for recognizing patterns—an essential element of deciphering and decoding. She was humble, but confident, and angry when others, like the FBI, took credit for her achievements. During World War II, the couple worked for separate branches of the military, each doing top secret work that they couldn’t discuss with the other. They navigated this, along with work, their family life raising two children, and William’s bouts of depression, with love and support for each other. In fact, it was Elizebeth’s  determination to write a book about William after his death helped ensure her own amazing life and career wasn’t lost to history. Periodic “Code Breaks”—short pieces between some chapters providing more information about codes and ciphers (starting with the difference between them!)—add additional intrigue to this page-turning biography. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center