One Book, One Batavia 2021 explores life of local World War II codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman

  • Jason Fagone

    Jason Fagone

 
 
Updated 2/2/2021 12:27 PM

This year, the "One Book, One Batavia" selection will be "The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies" by Jason Fagone.

Read the engaging true story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a genius codebreaker who began her career in the Tri-Cities.

 
"The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies" by Jason Fagone
"The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies" by Jason Fagone

In her first code breaking job, she worked for Colonel George Fabyan at Riverbank Laboratories (across from his home, which is in the current-day Fabyan Forest Preserve). She then went on to break codes during World War II, including cracking the Enigma code multiple times.

In this compelling biography, Jason Fagone shines a light on a woman whose work has been overlooked by history -- in part due to the top-secret nature of her code breaking, but also due to decisions made by J. Edgar Hoover and others to try to diminish the work of a woman codebreaker. A fascinating look at the life of a remarkable woman who -- for a time -- lived very near Batavia.

Her life story was recently featured in the "American Experience" episode "The Codebreaker. Wife. Mother. Secret American Hero" on PBS. It is based on Fagone's book.

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Fagone is an investigative reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. Previously, he was a contributing editor for the Huffington Post Highline, where he covered technology, sports, and culture. He also has written for The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, Washingtonian, and NewYorker.com. He is the author of the books "Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream" and "Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America."

"The Woman Who Smashed Codes" is his third book.

"One Book, One Batavia" is an annual communitywide reading program presented by the Batavia Public Library in cooperation with Batavia High School and co-sponsored by the Friends of the Batavia Public Library.

The series will begin with a book discussion at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, on Zoom. Register at tinyurl.com/smashedcodes. Adult Services manager Stacey Peterson facilitates this book discussion of the book. Participants are asked to read the book prior to the discussion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, there will be a virtual tour of Fabyan Villa at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Register at tinyurl.com/FabyanVilla. Let Vivien Lasken, director of the Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese Garden, take you on a virtual tour of the Fabyan Villa where Elizebeth Friedman did her first code breaking and met her husband, William.

On Wednesday, March 3, enjoy an hour with the author at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Register at tinyurl.com/JasonFagone.

On Tuesday, March 16, celebrate women "stepping up to the plate" during World War II with "Peaches and Baseball" at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Rebecca Tulloch, a vintage Rockford Peach, shares the story of the real-life Rockford Peaches and the film that was inspired by them, "A League of Their Own." Register at tinyurl.com/PeachesBaseball.

On Wednesday, March 24, learn about "The History of Women in Computer Science" at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Register at tinyurl.com/WomenComputerScience. Christine Szorc, an adjunct instructor at Elgin Community College, has been in the informational technology industry for over 25 years. Who better to talk about the history of women in computer science?