August 3, 2022

A New Documentary About Elizebeth Friedman

Now Streaming: The Mob Code

A new documentary about America’s first female cryptanalyst, Elizebeth Smith Friedman, is now available for streaming on educational video service Curiosity Stream. George C. Marshall Foundation Director of Library and Archives, Melissa Davis, was interviewed by the production team of Cracking the Code in Lexington, Virginia, in October 2021.

“The Elizebeth Smith Friedman collection is second only to the Marshall papers in popularity in the Marshall Foundation library archive,” she said. “For too many years, Elizebeth was a shadow in history – she couldn’t talk about her job as a government cryptanalyst as her work was classified. Elizebeth’s story is fascinating, and I’m excited to see it being told. I enjoyed working with the researchers and production staff at Blink Films.”

Breakthroughs during Elizebeth Smith Friedman’s career included debunking conspiracy theories about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, cracking codes used by rum runners during Prohibition, and uncovering a Nazi spy ring. She and her husband, William, are considered pioneers of cryptanalysis in American intelligence. Their papers were donated to the Marshall Foundation in the 1970s, where they remain to this day.

Subscriptions to Curiosity Stream start at $2.99 per month. The episode, entitled “The Mob Code,” is available here.