tv Discussion on Women During Wartime CSPAN March 18, 2018 8:01am-9:03am EDT
to explore the literary life and history of a selected city. we visit various literary and historic sites and interview local historians, authors and civic leaders. watch any of our past interviews and tours online by going to booktv.org and selecting c-span city tour. or by visiting c-span.org/cities tour. you can also follow the tour on twitter for behind-the-scenes images and video of our visits. the handle is at c-span cities.
>> good morning. thank you, i love that. to all of you festivalgoers. i'm so glad you chose this program which is called war girls as your first of the day. you're going to hear three extraordinary storiestoday . i think you're allgoing to like the book southward if you haven't already . let me just get this out of the way.
this is the housekeeping part. this is the 10th annual c-span festival of books and we wish to thank our sponsors for this session, tucson medical center and lucy is here somewhere, i think. there she is way in the back. thank you very much lucy. [applause] so some of you know the drill. the presentation lasts for one hour. we saved 20 minutes at the end and for all of your questions so ndyou can be thinking along that time. we have questionsand i am going to in my role as moderator , they will have conversations again i don't know how many questions we will get to butprobably four or five . theyare really interesting . so liza mundy down on the end is participating in a book tv interview in the c-span tends which is just outside for
about 20 or 30 minutes and she will proceed to the book signing area. the other two authors are going to go immediately to the book signing area so you can get in line in front of them first before liza comes along. we hope you are friends because the festival is free, spoken to everybody in our community and we would love to keep it that way so thanks for being here, volunteering, donating , whatever it is you're doing, thank you. you know the drill about cell phones. pagers. candy with loud wrappers, any s, of that kind of stuff, now is your time and i think that's it.t i'm going to introduce every panelist to you. in the middle we have elizabeth cobbs. elizabeth is an award-winning historian and novelist,
author of seven elbooks, most recently "thehello girls: america's first women soldiers" . it's the story of how female soldiers help during world war i and helped earn the vote and in the end they fought the u.s. army after it refused to recognize them as veterans zeafter they had been in battle. it's the tale of 233 of these women who mastered was at the time the largest technology was the telephone switchboard, pretty amazing and i understand the women were much better at it than the men were. sorry because of this aexpertise they were sent to france when general persing demanded wire experts and as this way of communicating became critical on the battlefields. elizabeth is the author of the hamilton affair, winner of four literary prizes and
has written for the new york times, jerusalem post, china daily forum, "l.a. times" and reuters and i think that's probably not an exhaustive list . she holds the melbourne chair in american history at texas a&m and is a senior fellow at &m stanford hoover institution. [applause] next to me is kate moore and kate is the author of "the radium girls: the dark story of america's shining women". i learned literally shining. this is about young womenwho worked in the radium factories during world war i . they painted the dial faces on the watches and they did that with heluminous radium paint which at the time early on was thought to be a great thing, a really good thing for you. many of these watches made it to soldiers who went to the battlefront and later it was discovered that the radium
companies, the radium had made them very sick and they went after the companies who knew something about that at the time and that was a long, hard fight. the book was named book of the year 2017 by npr and barnes and noble, a notable book by the american library association and quoted librarians favorite nonfiction book of 2017 and i'm a librarian so i loved it. a british writer, kate has published numerous bestsellers including history, biography, ttrue crime and humor. she's written more than 15 books and her work has been translated into more than 10 languages, this is kate. [applause] liza mundy is a journalist and author of four books,most recently "code girls: the untold story of american women code breakers of world ebwar ii" . national bestseller that reveals the secret work of thousands of women who were critical in ending the war.
liza is former staff writer r for the washington post, her book the richer sex was named one of the top fiction books by the washington post.she writes for publications including the atlantic, politico, new york times and i'm pretty sure that's not the whole list either . she's appeared on all things considered, talk of the nation and other television and radio shows. she's a senior fellow at new america, a nonpartisan think tank and lives in arlington virginia a mile from arlington hall where some of the army code breaking women w actually worked so those are our panelists for today. [applause] the first question i'm going to throw out to you
is about the fact that you all three have written books that exposed or brought to light some very important stories that most of us had not heard of before that and they are all about women and women doing extraordinary things so i'd like to ask you what inspired these projects . >> what inspired these projects?well, as you know i'm from england so how did i discover this piece of little-knownamerican history? i directed a play about the girls . as i was directing it, i felt this enormous responsibility to do justice to that story because these were fictional characters, these were true people and they deserved to have a production that was as authentic as i could possibly make it so i did lots of research, i read the other books written on the women, there's a book about their legal legacy, industrial health reform and a book about their scientific legacy
and both of them are academic books written by people with doctorates and i was astonished that there was no book which was actually about the e girls because to me, they were the most important part of the story. and in fact these women, the individual women, grace fryer, catherine donohoe, catherine shaw had been eclipsed by their achievement and people only knew then if they knew them at all by these anonymous moniker of the radium girls.t and i thought that was wrong. i thought the individual women deserved a book that charted their personal journey because i think whatever topic we are writing on, it only becomes compelling if you are able to empathize and appreciate the strength of the people we are writing about when you know their names, their faces, who
loved them, their husbands, the children, the context in which they hewere living and that's what i wanted to do for the girls so having realized there was no book about the individual women, i thought if no one else has done it, why don't i? and it was incredibly intimidating because it's a topic full of science and law and history. i'm not a scientist or a lawyer or a historian like elizabeth is and that was quite a decision to make to take on this topic but in the end i thought well, i'm a woman. i may not be any of those other things but i'm a woman and i thought perhaps the radium girls is not another scientist or lawyer speaking for them, perhaps the best person to tell this story is just an ordinary woman like they were ordinary women so i can look at their lives with that perspective of simple humanity and that's what inspired me to write the
book, to restore them as individuals to memory. [applause] >> i am a historian and often when we write history, there's this thing that happens. i have a friend who recently wrote a book about a particular era in american history and it had biographies of seven or eight people in itand the publisher said this is really a great book . two of those characters were female and he said the women, it doesn't make sense. leave that part out in the picture becomes clear and the preface, what the thesis of this book is. so the women were like pieces that didn't fit for this person and i spoke recently with the granddaughter of one of the hello girls and she
said i knew my grandma was in world war i and in france and that something happened but wenever heard about that when we heard about world war i so it just didn't make sense. a piece didn't fit in the picture , this woman's picture of world war i and it reminded me of the book hidden figures. you know you saw that film and the women were hidden, they went to work every day and pulled up in their cars and the same was true here. i saw footage from 1918 that's been incorporated into a documentary about the hello girls and there it shows them and a crowd much bigger than this one, all of them in their uniforms lined up in the parade grounds at france which is the first army headquarters and in the front row, basically right there in purging view, the head of the armed forces, there are the women lined up. how could they be forgotten? how could they not be seen later? a friend of mine who's an eminent historian, i was telling him about it and he
said are you going to get a whole book out of this?so i was a little discouraged but not really. so then you start to like, well you have to write it and in my case these women came back, were decorated. one with the distinguished service medal metal and they got back even though they been threatened with court-martial, they taken the oath numerous times. a served behind the firing lines, asclose as general pershing andthey were told they were soldiers . they have auniform , they had everything . but without a discharge paper . so when they got back, some of them joined the veterans of foreign wars, veterans of foreign wars and were kicked out and they couldn't produce their discharge papers. so they fought for those discharge papers for 60 years . and they wrote franklin
delano roosevelt and ohharry truman and john kennedy and richard nixon and jimmy carter and finally they were helped by a young man, a young attorney and also the national organization for women and barry goldwater of arizona. those names don't usually get put together in the same since. and they got their recognition 60 years later and the woman was their leader in that campaign who had been the telephone operator, the xsupervisor for the peace conference at verse i, she said i'm so happy to get my victory metal . not for serving in france 60 years ago but for fighting the u.s. army and winning. so i'm happy to tell their story. [applause] >> part of the reason that
the story i'm telling was untold for so long is because during world war ii, code breaking was a top secret operation and when the us army and navy recruited thousands of women, school teachers and college graduates who were asked to do this work, they were at first told they couldn't tell anybody what they were doing w at the giant barb wire surrounding compounds in washington dc. they were told if anybody asks what they were doing they were to say that they were secretaries, they sharpened pencils and filled in guelph and empty trash cans and because they were women, people believed them. people believed the work they were doing must be trivial so in that way, they were the ideal intelligence officers because people assumed that their work couldn't be interesting and they wouldn't get grilled for very long people ask them and after the twar, there were shortened the war by at least a year and a saved thousands of lives.
the united states had d an even larger code breaking operation and the british did. we worked at lashley park. uneasily at first but then closely as the war progressed and we had more than 10,000 women who were comprising more than half of our code breaking force. they were allowed to go overseas although some would eventually and after the war the women weretold thanks very much for your service, you did a great job . them were told never to show their metals to anybody and the women followed instructions. just as they had during the war, they didn't tell anybody what they had done. my central character, a former schoolteacher named doc braden after the war, both of her younger brothers survived the war and both of them had top-secret security clearances in their jobs after the war and the guys would brag about their security clearances and she
was unable to tell them she had also had a top secret security clearance and rhad done this work that possibly save their lives as well as the lives of many other when so the women went for decades . one of the women was married to a man who would say to her, whatever you did during the war, it wasn'tvery important and she just had to listen to that . so they kept it secret and most of them took the secret to their graves and the code breaking operation during world war ii it was successful ultimately became our national security agency. and historians at the nsa new that the agency's origin story was female. it wasn't a secret within the agency fand there have been internal classified histories of some of these women. one historian in particular, lou benson had written an
internal history where he interviewed some of the women who stayed on and pointed out they were former schoolteachers which is so incredible. so that history was ultimately declassified and i came upon history and then went to our cryptologic museum and talk to end nsa historian and curator, iboth women. so the federal historians and female government employees, it's as though they had been waiting for somebody to come along and tell their story and they sat for me for hours at a time when i was ignorant of code breaking and all the technology and the science that went into it and when i looked back at that transcript, it was so mortifying of the questions that i was asking and they were very patient . but what was daunting, once they laid it out for me was the question of whether or not i could find women who
could till alive who tell the story and whether i could find enough of a paper record to document their recollections and i too was very daunted by that and yet the story was so irresistible that i felt like i had to try to do it if it was doable. and i found doc braden and i had to convince her that she wouldn't be put in prison if she finally spoke about her hwork and her son was there and he had been trying to pry this information out of her for decades so we were both there adding her on and had been begging her to tell us the story which she wanted to do even as though she still believed that she wasn't supposed to and i came saying the nsa would like you to talk about this story. this is a good story to tell and i better say that another piece about edward snowden or something. so it took a little bit of persuading but she really wanted to talk about her role
in the war. and finally get to say that she had had a top secret security clearance and had done this work and she was part of one of the most important code breaking operations of world war ii and i kept telling her that to try to impress on her thinking of japanese supply ships in this pacific and she had a hardtime getting around ports . so anyway, it turned out to be impossible to find about 20 women to talk about their work so since my book has been published i've heard from at least 20 more, many of whom are online. i've heard from hundreds of adultchildren reacting like that's what my mom was doing . she said she was a secretary all those years. and what the women didn't know is they had been relieved fromtheir oath of secrecy in the 60s but nobody had told them . nobody had tracked them down individually and said it's okay to talk but they became aware that numbers were being written and books were being written and that male naval officer in the pacific
writing about the battle of midway and the role of code breaking in that and then their stories have been left out of history and what was surprising in addition to it being visible to find them was there was actually a vast record and i had to get some of it declassified. a lot of it didn't exist already in the archives. it had been overlooked by historians writing about the war. so yes. [applause] >> the women that you are all writing about were working with the latest technologies happening at the time and they're out there on the forefront . right now talking about artificial intelligence. it was the same kind of thing when you were working with these technologies. can you talk about how women work with those technologies and how they used them to make this significant t contribution they did? >> we will rotate.
>> yes, the telephone was this amazing new technology. and this is the first time telephones have been used in a war. and it meant that you could instantly communicate with soldiers in the field and they can tell you friendly fire is coming in or suddenly there's an opportunity to advance so commands were given all by telephone. and radios didn't carry voices yet and it took three meals to take a radio to the broadcasting station. and they were insecure in terms of security at the communications so telephones were it . and it took the army, the army realized that it took a doughboy and that was theword for a world war i infantry soldier . they would say doughboy and they found that on average, it took the doughboy's about 60 seconds to connect acall and it was a very fast pace .
somebody had to figure out where to send it and you are handling national secrets in your hands. these were operations boards sometimes , so these were all militaryoperations . borders to advance our retreat and so it took them in about 60 seconds and these conversations were sometimes in french cause you were in france and you're talking to french officers and soldiers andcoordinating with french operators down the line . so don't voice also did not partner and all of this is happening with about 60 seconds to collect the call and it took the women on average 10 seconds. in wartime the difference between 10 seconds and 60 seconds is your life. so purging, they found they had to have the women on the operations board. they didn't trust the men to handle those calls, they sometimes happen behind the lines because calls were slower. they said the women had better nerves.
that was hilarious, thearmy saying the women had better nerves . but so their ability to manipulate literally this new technology and to use it with great efficiency was terribly important. by the end of the war these women had handled 26 million calls. 150,000 calls a day. >> really amazing so during world war ii, many of the civilian women who were breaking codes for the u.s. army were members of the signal corps, like your women as awell and during world war ii, most of the messages were taking place over radio transmissions although i morse code and there was a dizzying number of prototype systems that the germans and japanese were using. the germans were using the famous enigma cipher which was a machine that was in every u-boat and used by the army and air force to insight
for a german messages, to scramble letters so the k would go through a series heof permutations and emerge asa different letter . there were women who were recruited from colleges who were kept in math and languages who could do the math who had devised early computer coprograms. they would look at a garbled message and they would have to can gesture what words might be in it. if it was a weather report from the bay, they would look for where this kyle weather might be expected to appear in the message and look at what they were seeing and they would have to do the math, devise a program to determine how the machine which the settings changed every couple days, how the machine might have transformed and a that would emerge as it acts and so they were devised in computer
programs. they were entering them into giant machines that were built in dayton ohio. the rotors had been wired by women recruited by the navy many of whom were former telephone operators because they were experts and un-intimidated by machines. telephone operators were traditionally female in the country because women were believed to be more polite to so that's one reason why communications was a pretty female occupation. so that was just one cipher system. the japanese were using massive codebooks for the most part that enabled code and also the japanese army, they would take a word like maroon which was a supply ship and render it as a four or five digit code and would add another seven numbers to it from an additive book and that would be the set of numbers that were radioed. women adapt in math but also
in languages would look at the series of numbers and they would have to strip out the additive which was a form of an cipher meant. this was early encryption so they were hacking into a acommunications systems and doing decryption and would have to subtract out the number. and then they would have to likely ure that that aimeans hiroshima or that means a deviation gap, whatever the supply ship would be carrying so there's a lot of precision, a lot of math but then there's a lot of guesswork. so at the time only four percent of american women went to college and that was because there were so few occupations sthat would hire a college educated woman but they were recruited into this operation and schoolteachers, that was pretty much the only occupation that a college educated woman could count on so teachers had received a wonderful liberal arts
education and they all learned latin, french, physics and they proved you know, remarkably adept at mastering this quickly. >> in contrast to liza's heroines, radium girls, they did not have those liberal arts educations. radium girls tended to be more working-class women. daughters and granddaughters and most of them were teenagers. 14, 15, 16 years of age and records show that some ofthem were as young as 11 . so they were at the cutting edge of technology because of the material they were using so we're talking about first world war but the radium diet industry, began in booming because these women were not just painting watches and clocks, they were painting aeronautical dials. and you know, the instruments that would light up at night in ships and planes and automobiles. when america joined the first world war, they could explode
and radium was an incredibly new technology, a new element at that time. it was only discovered in 1898. so by the time we are at 1917, it hadn't even been around for 20 years. and because of that it was still such a new substance and as they hinted in the introduction, people thought it was safe at that time. so part of the role that the radium girls played in handling these new technologies was through their fitness, through their determination, to not stay silent about what had happened. they thought the world, actually radioactivity is not the answer to human immortality. it was literally found articles in the archive where we say the headlines were urging readers to eat radium tablets.
because the newspaper said and i quote, it would add years to our lives . and so the radium girls proved actually that perception was wrong. that at the time, they were working , dial painting and it's important to say the techniques that these women were using were taught was to put their paintbrushes between their lips to make a fine point. because the numbers they were painting were so tiny, they needed to suck on their brushes to make sure the bristles weretapered . so these women are ingesting radium. they work stupid about it. make early, one of the radium higirls said the first thing we ask was does this hurt you. and they said you'll be fine, it's not. it's not dangerous, you'll be s perfectly safe and the women thought that was true he caused the newspaper articles as i talked about, they knew
the mayor of chicago and new york were drinking radium water which people drank as a health tonic in those days as kind of ward off ill health. they recommended those with 5 to 7 glasses a day. and radium was in everything. chocolate, cosmetics. you could buy luminous cream with soaps and powders but it's also important to say that even at the time the dial painters are working, it isn't entirely unknown that radium is actually dangerous. they thought the women were safe and the radium water was safe and cosmetics were safe because it was only a timely tiny amount they were using and in fact, even from radium's discovery, they knew a large amount was incredibly dangerous. yet that the reset in 1903 that he would not dare to leave himself alone in a room with a kilo of pure radium because it would burn all the skin off his body, destroyed
his eyesight and probably kill him. >> and part of the shocking thing about the story is that literally next door to the dial painting studio where the women are sucking on their brushes and following the paint , you have the mail lab worker with lead aprons and wielding ivory -tipped tongs because they are taught the radium is dangerous for them. >> so women at the forefront of technology, they didn't realize it at the time and again, this is the story of ordinary women who did extraordinary things because of course radioactivity is not safe and it will not add years to your life. it will shorten it drastically. and yet because these girls in resulting years did not stay silent, they fought for justice and they made it public knowledge, protected millions of other people and if eagle had read the book or
if you do read the book, you'll see it is a story that was not just in fact world war i but phase into world war ii, because by then dial painters iawere even bigger. the radium company personnel in world war ii increased by 1600 percent but because of the original radium girls, those painters were safe and they protected workers in the manhattan project and they had a scientific legacy even into the 1950s when the atomic arms races going on and there are atomic testings above ground. because of the radium girls, we decided it's not a good idea to keep doing that , because as the radium girls proved, if you have a radioactive substance, as was happening in the 1970s because of the atomic bomb tests, that is a very bad thing and in fact it's thanks to them that we have that knowledge. >>. [applause] a lovely image.
there is a description of them in the workplace, that radium would get in their hair, their clothing, their skin and they like that because they glittered and when they went to the ey speakeasies later that l evening, they really didn't shine . if you can imagine that image. connections ny between the histories of the women you've written about and current events, things that are happening right now? >> well, i absolutely do in the sense that you know, the women i read about in my book were in the forefront of cyber intelligence, cyber security, working early computers. the code breaking machines we developed to crack the ciphers were early computers. so much of our stem innovations were pioneered during world war ii because
we needed computers to calculate weapons trajectories and to break code and cipher systems and it was women who were working these systems. a great doctor was developed in the navy's smart computers, there were women grounding eniac which is the army's first computer and my women were running early code breaking computers and doing cyber security and again, because their work was top-secret and because they were written out of history, people forget that women were at the forefront of developing stem technologies and we are still having these observations today about do women really belong in the stem the field? why are there more women in silicon valley? you remember the engineer who questionedwhether women are biologically suited to do work in the tech sector . i think it's enormously relevant to the conversation. it's unbelievable that we're
having these conversations but i hope that there is books like hidden figures and rise of the ratchet girls in these wonderful books about human contributions to be brandished during these conversations. >> that word brandished. that's a writer there. yes, stories are important and how did we come to learn that radium was so harmful? because these women told their stories and for women today telling their stories, that helps us as a world be better, move the marker of the story and merle egan who is an operator who couldn't take it lying down in the army kept saying you are in the army right now and she kept saying i know what that means but when she got out of the army she felt it was important to continue to get the story out. she said when she was in her late 80s, she's 91 and she finally gets hervictory metal . and someone in her late 80s,
she said people ask me why do i keep this up? and she herself was discouraged. as you can imagine. but kept trying anyhow. she said i do this because i lost my country. and i want my country to be worth loving. so it was her patriotism. as well as her sense of the injustice of women that kept her moving this forward so stories like this are important. or all of us. >> and inclusion on the us military. >> absolutely. and george marshall, one of the reasons why the women's army car was formed in the 1940s and then later integrated with the whole army in the 70s is because george marshall knew the hello girls. they took his phone calls. >> i think as well, in 2016, they worked in a very female veterans or something.>>
one more time. yes. so my 2016, these women, they finally got recognized along with the women of world war ii were known as the wasps. they were service pilots and the barry goldwater, he had been a pilot inworld war ii as well . and he couldn't believe the women pilots of world war ii get what he got. so they advanced their legislation of the hello girls in the wasps, they went in together on the same piece oflegislation . then arlington announced, we're just running out of space so the wasps weren't real soldiers anyhow so they won't be buried here.as recent as two years ago, i'm sorry i forget the name. i think it was in arizona congresswoman. went to congress and said one more time, the soldiers. so legislature was half in 2016 and signed by president obama. and had their status as true soldiers yet again.
>> and i mean, after stuff like this, these wonderful authors have said this story does have residence today and when you read the radium girls. partly the reason the story is so haunting is because we see parallels throughout history. the story happens 100 years ago and in fact you can see parallels and what happened in the tobacco industry for example. this isn't just a story of women getting sick and then saying it was the radium . well, thank you for bringing this up for contention, thank you so much. of course not, that's not what happened. the radium industry, there were hundreds of products and it was lucrative and of course people don't want to hear a story that affects the bottom line. so the story of the radium girls is the story of a cover-up. it's the story of nations
putting profits before people. it's a story of people trying to silence these women and discredit them and shun them and ignore them and conveniently for them, women were being poisoned and dying and there is such cynical action by these companies, trying to o bring out the legal cases that the women will die before they can get justice. so there are parallels that we see today which i think you know, the book serves as a warning for history that in fact, we really need to stay vigilant about things. the day when i wrote the book , i said that we would come to, that would be published at a time when recognition was already starting to roll back. and to me, i think it's super important that we listen to these warnings and these lessons from history. because we ignore this at our peril. i think as well though the
story is not only relevant as a warning , i think these days of the health and safety joke .n as a bit of a it takes four of them and the latter to change a lightbulb and so forth. they say that legislation came in and the bodies and sacrifice of people that came before it and it's important to respect those rules. i also think it's not just a warning also an inspirational message for us of what you can achieve, what ordinary women achieved. with dignity and courage and the refusal to's day silent. it's a lesson for us an inspirational one that if you band together with like-minded people and you rfight for what you think is right and you stand up for your rights, even though it might take decades, you can make extraordinary things
happen . and i think one of my favorite rotations from the book comes from greats reprior and she was of course bringing suits against each company when she is facing certain death and they didn't have very much money available, why she doing? grace says is not for myself and my care. i'm thinking more of the hundreds of other girls to whom this may serve as an example. and i think that altruism is extraordinary. and i think when you meet the radium girls, they are an example to us all and as i say, i think this story does have residence today. i hope that people do take the example of the radium girls and whatever personal fight for justice is. that they take inspiration from their courage and strength and you fight your ownpersonal battle and you stand up for what you think is right . [applause] >> and now it's your turn.
if you have questions, i'm going to ask you to come to the microphone. >> we will be able to hear you probably, especially if on you're in the back of the room. if any of you have a question and need assistance getting to the microphone, let us know. or you can make the microphone come to you. >> i think it was liz, you talked about the role that the girls had with the suffragist movement, can you talk about that a little bit? >> women became soldiers before they became voters and that's not completely out of sync. that was true of african-american men as well, men property at the time of the american revolution so fighting for your country is strictly a step towards becoming full citizens and this was at the time that the women's movement had been trying to get suffrage for over 70 years.
they said they felt like they were in a rut. >> and so this, what women did in world war i was so important, teaching men all kinds including the minds of us president woodrow wilson who had opposed the federal suffrage amendment and the day after he panned the 1427, really for world history, he set the stage for the 20th century and our world today and the day after that, congress said we need to f fight for women. and he told the congress can we ask everything that women are capable of giving. and still say we don't see what title that gives them? we can't be the last to learn because by the time 20 other countries acknowledge women, he pointed out women at the state department, it was time to recognize that. >> thank you all for a wonderful presentation. miss moore, i wonder if you could comment a little more broadly. on interestingly enough, the
mysteries i heard about the social revolution of women in employment caused by world war i. and i wonder if you could just give me a little more on that. >> i think it was entirely, just as elizabeth talked about, wwomen did come before and they got opportunities that they never had before and they worked for the same echo of it again. and i think you know, with that opportunity obviously comes what happens with people trying to not recognize what the contribution that women had given and i think it's interesting because i think having more say in the workplace, having more opportunities, gives women
more strength. we heard how women were soldiers before they were voters. the dial painters were sacrificing themselves unwittingly for their company before they had the boat as well. they had that opportunity, the financial benefits that they had, the increased confidence that women had, i think that then that fits into other elements of society as well. painters and barked on that flight to justice if they hadn't been employed, if they been in the home. it's an interesting question whether or not that is true. i don't know if that answers your question but it was a revolutionary time for women. we still see the echo of that even today. >> yes, i like to reiterate how wonderful all three of you, i'm going to buy all three books as soon as i can but i was curious about the encoders.
could you tell me wherethe navajo, the american indian came in ? before or after? >> yes, because the navajo code talkers were an example of wartime, national emergency as a time of inclusion. this sort of usual suspects s are now out fighting. the men who would have been recruited to do so much of this work were literally unavailable that the us is willing to bring in marginalized groups and avail themselves of those communications skills the code talkers were men in the pacific with the marines who were doing cyber security. they were encoding our military messages that we could transmit our messages in a secure language that the enemy didn't know and ag couldn't break. so that was one group. there were also women and including in the theater of war. mostly as wac's but as waves
as well who were working to encode and insight for our military messages, studying our practices to make sure they were secure. in some cases the women were called what was on the traffic to mypersuade the enemy we had troops where we didn't have any troops before the d-day landings. they were parading dummy traffic to convince the germans that we were going to land at calais though there were women who were doing the same work that the code talkers were doing and i did find one world history woman who said she was trained in the navajo language as well in order to do the code talking. i wasn't able to verify that but she did know about it and she did mention it in her oral history. there was a communications training center set up at mount holyoke and she said she was trained at mount holyoke and thought now so there might have been overlap between those groups. >>. >> so while we continue to have men staying the stupidest things, even today.
miss monday, could you tell me where their statistics on what percentage women make up now within the code breaking and intelligence community for the us? and miss moore, you might know about britain, i don't know. >> so, i don't know what the specifics are the nsa. what happened after the war, so many of her intelligence communities were born out of the war. the cia, we have 17 intelligence agencies now and women make up an increasingly important sector of that workforce. what happened immediately after the war is most of the women were sent home. most of the women were told you for your service, get married, go home, raise children. a couple of the women wanted to use the g.i. bill were navy waves andapplied for architecture school . in order to make room for returning men so there was an effort to put the genie back in the bottle after world war ii that there was a cohort of
really talented women who stayed with the work after the war and made up a generation of women at the nsa who pioneered code breaking during the cold war. there was a woman in charge of human code breaking which was got a little bit of a backwater until the cuban missile crisis and she handled our code breaking during the missile scrisis. a woman named and christie rose to become the first female deputy director of the nsa and the nsa directors conference room is named after her inside the building so it was an important cohort of women who stayed with the work after war. many of them didn't have children because that was the real dealbreaker, that was when you were believed you wouldn't stay home so there was a generation who were among the first super grades of the nsa and then there was falling off because women were recruited at the same numbers to be the next generation and so it took again, a set of in many agencies, women fought for inclusion in these intelligence agencies, they
sort of build back the numbers. because the numbers are good and getting better but in the private sector it feels like cyber security which is extremely lucrative, they are notoriously hostile to them right now. >> thank you for writing about these women. i have loved reading a number of books on this topic and my question is, i've read the women who smashed codes, the girls of atomic city. do you speak with the authors of these other books and your research and sharing that information because i see those names mentioned throughout, throughout the different books. it's so important we're hearing the stories. so thank you for writing this about my question. i want to say thank you to the tucson festival of books
for bringing us together in this room. >> and go ahead. i've not met these women before and no, we don't generally work together on these things so it's interesting. >> i'm not sure i was invited. >> i can't tell you though. >> i think all of our books were percolating along at the same time but it is, i'm so grateful for all of these great books being produced and i think that the publishing industry as a historical is profession is more receptive to these books now that other books exist and that perception has been so warm to them and i also, this is sort of a term of art but i really admire both of these other authors. it's hard to manage a cohort as a writer, it's hard to manage a book about a cohort of people, this is your going to focus on and how you're
going to propel the narrative but also, these women were working as cohorts. it effort and that could be a harder book to sell also because you have to convince a publisher you are capable of writing about a cohort so i think all of the books are reinforcing each other andin convincing the publishing industry that it's a viable thing . >> just as you say, you work implicitly as a writer, it's a lonely profession at times but i did reach out to the other authors who'd written on the radium girls so doctor sonja tarkenton died very young and she wasn't around anymore but doctor russell who wrote a book called nancy glow was generous and he shared research materials with me. he was really helpful in helping me reproduce pictures that he had found in my book that he had in his book so he was very helpful and we've
chosen the same topic but told it in a different way and what was wonderful in meeting him was to see how passionate he was about these girls and bringing the story to life so ireven though he'd chosen to tell it in a different way, he was helpful to me in bringing my more creative nonfiction on the women version to life so i was very grateful to him. >> maybe for one more question. >> you mentioned through the conversation that these histories have been forgotten but rediscovered. what have you found that works in the past for getting women involved in science, technology, engineering and math and keeping them there which seems to be the s challenge after world war . >> i think obviously in my case, these women were unwitting scientific colony pioneers so for them it wasn't a case of sitting out.t. i just like to pick up on
something lighter earlier, these histories are there. they're just waiting for someone to listen. all the records were there. when i reached out to family members they would wait until somebody was interested in their relatives and wanted to tell a story that focused on them so what i would say , if there are any budding writers out there, if these histories are there, it just takes someone willing tolisten to them . >> there were 100 positions the army wanted to fill initially for these women who were the wire experts. and 7600 women volunteered for 100 jobs. so it wasn't hard to find women who wanted to do it. >> it had to be a welcoming atmosphere. i think that goes back to our liza today about science and technology. there are lots of wonderful interesting women who would love to do this kind of work.
so welcoming them i think is a lot of what it's about. half the men and women in world war i were volunteers. >> i don't know why after that. that's a coda for this. the only other thought that i had during our conversation in terms of relevance to the modern day, we talk a lot about pay also . pay for women. and all of these women, certainly the women in my book and i'm sure kate as well and probably your women as well, they were doing it out of patriotism and the desire to serve the war effort but they were also volunteering because they needed work. because their pay was important to them and their families. that's why they were young girls, they were helping support their parents and siblings tso there's a lot of talk about make america great again. go back to an era when women didn't need to work or
something but there's never been an era where women didn't need to work. i was a significant cohort of women didn't we need and want to work. and then a lot of my schoolteachers took this work not knowing what they were going to be doing because they were making $900 a year teaching school and they would make $1600 a year working for the us government . so money matters. equal pay heis also important. >> we have more than 10 minutes left, do we have a few more? >> i'm from illinois and we are two states away ratifying equal rights amendment. so minute women, all your legislators, your state legislator from vote for the mera because we are having all these arguments against it. >>. [applause] >> i want to say thank you
guys, is complete inspiration what you'rewriting on but i'm wondering twhat you're writing on next .>> i'm currently researching another american history novel. but because i work as a professional writer, i'm also a ghost writer. i write lots of books in the uk i got a new book coming out in may. i ghostwrite that which is an incredible story of a woman born into a cold in london and lives in it for 30 years before she manages to escape. so i just got lots of other o things coming up but i am researching another book in this field. >> i write historical novels as well as history books on my next book will be another historical novel. hamilton affair was the fishing one. it's about, i don't even want to say it because it sounds so exciting but i don't remember her name but bit was a woman who sponsored the war and applied for a pension. >> from the us government and
30 years later was finally granted one. >> i'm poking around in the archives as well looking for my next historical topic and i want tto research how kate does so many books so amazingly. [laughter] >> if you have a quick question, we have time for one more. >> .. or one more. >> very quick, i hope. any research psychological, sociological, why the women were so much more proficient than the men? any thing that says why that was? >> us census bureau in 1900 was writing about women in this new profession that they totally dominated and they didn't really know why they said the telephone companies have found that women had better manners, that they were good at doing all of these tasks simultaneously. we would call that multitasking. i'm not sure there's never been
a study to show that and of course we now have automatic dialing but they certainly found that women, as i said, their nerves could take all that input simultaneously. don't you think it's because there are so many fields that were denied women that women were coming forward and volunteering to do his work were super qualified, right strike men to go into many professions. >> right, when my great heroine disgrace, wonderful, spunky, delightful woman, hilarious in fact but absolutely passionately dedicated which was a graduate of barnard college which was the single mr. luce my college and the best job she could get was being a telephone operator. >> this is been a fantastic panel. [applause]
... [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> live coverage from the tucson festival of books continues. liza mundy who was written most recently "code girls: the untold story of the american women code breakers of world war ii" now joins us on her outdoor set to take your calls. liza mundy, how do you find a