'The woman who smashed codes' discussion in Wilton

The Wilton Historical Society reading group will be discussing “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies” by Jason Fagone, a national bestseller and NPR Best Book of the Year.

The discussion will take place on Thursday, Feb. 13, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Joining the ranks of “Hidden Figures” and “In the Garden of Beasts,” the book tells the true story of the greatest codebreaking duo that ever lived: an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology and used it to solve puzzles that unmasked Nazi spies and helped win World War II, an announcement said.

The book tells the story of Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith, who in 1916, at the height of World War I, went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago. The tycoon had close ties to the U.S. government, and he soon asked Smith to apply her language skills to an exciting new venture: code-breaking. There she met the man who would become her husband, groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman.

Fagone chronicles Smith, who played an integral role in U.S. history for 40 years, the announcement said. After World War I, Smith used her talents to catch gangsters and smugglers during Prohibition, then accepted a covert mission to discover and expose Nazi spy rings that were spreading across South America, advancing closer to the United States. As World War II raged, Smith cracked multiple versions of the Enigma machine used by German spies. Meanwhile, inside an Army vault in Washington, Friedman worked to break Purple, the Japanese version of Enigma — and eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost to his personal life, the announcement said.

Participants at the book discussion are asked to bring a brown bag lunch. The society provides a beverage and dessert. There is no charge. To register, use the email info@wiltonhistorical.org or call 203-762-7257.

The Wilton Historical Society is located at 224 Danbury Road. Visit wiltonhistorical.org for more information.