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War and Peace (Code Girls)


Code Girls is the first in my series War & Peace which juxtaposes the perception of the abilities and intelligence of women in the early 1940s with those of women in the early1950s.

Posters seeking to recruit women in the war effort inspired (and appear in) most of the assemblages. But since codebreakers were recruited surreptitiously, this tribute to the female codebreakers itself contains a puzzle and a pun.

The first questions asked of possible recruits were (1) Do you like crossword puzzles and (2) Are you engaged? The crossed words at the lower left reference the first question. Rearranged, the letters spell CODEBREAKER.

The nautical drawer liner references the importance of breaking Japanese and Nazi codes to protect American vessels and military operating in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. It is also a nod to the US Navy, the first branch of the military seeking to recruit women as codebreakers.

The numbers on the playing cards reference the first twelve numbers in a code sent by the Japanese on October 4, 1944.

The letters on the left contrast with the A B C blocks in the nursery scene on the right. On the surface, the white crib represents the post-war pressure on women to return to domestic duties. But it is also a sly reference to the intelligence of those women when they returned to those duties. A “crib” is a method for decrypting codes.
If you would like to know more about the topic, I encourage you to read Lisa Mundy’s fascinating book, Code Girls.

Custom framed with museum glass in a sophisticated deep wooden frame in collaboration with Chevy Chase Art Gallery, Washington, DC.

Frame color: Black
Size (in inches): 18 x 22 x 4

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