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Women in American Cryptology

Creating the Legacy

View the Women in American Cryptology Honorees

Although the number of women involved in cryptology has always been lower than the number of men, they have not been completely absent from the field either. Women have always been involved in America's cryptologic history. Some have reached the higher ranks of management and a few have been considered the expert in their field.

Cryptologic pioneers, such as Elizebeth Friedman and Agnes Driscoll, are well known to those who study cryptology. Were it not for their early involvement, the women of today may not have been able to reach their current numbers or status. But not every woman, or their organizations, has made it into the history books. Thousands of lesser-known women cryptologists have also played a role in creating the legacy women enjoy today. Their achievements, and in some cases their escapades, furthered the progress of women in cryptology. Women's involvement was sometimes sporadic, but significant.

The Women in Cryptologic History exhibit at the National Cryptologic Museum highlights the contributions of twenty-four women who have helped create cryptologic history. The display begins with a member of the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolution who used her laundry as a secret code. Women spies from the Civil War also used codes and ciphers to aid those fighting for the causes they believed in. But it wasn't until the twentieth century that women began to work full-time in cryptology. During WWI several women considered to be cryptologic pioneers began their careers, as did some women few people today would know. During WWII thousands of women joined the military or worked as civilians for the military as cryptanalysts, intercept operators, technicians, machinists and every other position available in cryptology. Many of those women chose to stay in the field after the war, providing breakthroughs and contributions throughout the Cold War. Eventually, women rose to the highest ranks of management and today continue to support, develop, and build the cryptologic legacy of tomorrow.

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Juanita Moody

2003 Hall of Honor Inductee

Women in American Cryptology Honoree

Recalling the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, former NSA senior Juanita Moody said that it "allowed us to take advantage of everything we had learned during World War II and post-World War II… and I felt that every day in my career in the Agency from the Cuban crisis on was affected by my experience at that time."

In early 1943, Juanita Morris, at a small college in North Carolina, wished to contribute to the war effort and volunteered at the nearest recruiting office. By April, she was at the Army cryptologic headquarters at Arlington Hall Station. While awaiting her security clearance, the Signal Security Agency (SSA) put her into unclassified training in cryptanalysis; she became fascinated with the subject.

At the end of the war, her supervisor asked her to stay on, rather than be demobilized, and she agreed. In 1948, she married Warren Moody, a noncryptologic employee.

Ms. Moody supervised NSA's day-to-day -- sometimes, minute-by-minute -- response to the Cuban Missile Crisis as head of the major element responsible for Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) on that region. In addition to directing production and reporting, she frequently gave impromptu briefings to high-level civilian and military leaders. She often worked around the clock, grabbing only a few hours sleep on a cot in her office.

In the years following the Cuban Missile Crisis, Ms. Moody was assigned to higher positions within the production organization at NSA. She revolutionized SIGINT reporting, and put NSA into the White House Situation Room.

However, in the mid-1970s, she was one of NSA's spokespersons during Congressional hearings and was incorrectly identified by the media as having been involved in intelligence community abuses.

Juanita Moody retired from NSA in 1976 after 33 years of service. The previous December she had become the first recipient of the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, presented by then Director of Central Intelligence George Bush.

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