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Women in American Cryptology Creating the Legacy

Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Elizebeth Friedman

Elizebeth Friedman began her cryptologic career in 1916 at Riverbank Laboratory. Her task was to assist in the decryption of the works of Shakespeare, which some believed revealed Sir Francis Bacon as the true author.

She helped train Signal Corps personnel in the use of cryptology after the U.S. entered WWI. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1921, working briefly for both the Army's and the Navy's cryptologic offices. However, her skill as a cryptanalyst proved invaluable during the Prohibition years. She broke more than 12,000 coded messages from rumrunners and smugglers who used codes to conduct their illicit business. Her efforts and her testimony at their trials broke up smuggling rings and saved the government hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Historical Document | Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009