Filed Under Wartime

Elizabeth “Betty” Stewart – Code Breaker

Elizabeth Stewart was instrumental in securing the Allied victory during the Second World War. As a member of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) military unit, she worked to decipher enemy naval codes. After the war, Elizabeth continued her work in mathematics, computers, and architecture.

Elizabeth (Betty) Stewart was born in 1923 in Newark, New Jersey. She attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she was recruited by her math teacher to join a special operation of the U.S. Navy. She graduated early in March of 1944 due to the accelerated wartime schedule.

At just twenty years old, Betty joined the WAVES unit. In May she attended officer training school at Smith College where the campus was transformed into the U.S.S. Northampton, the official training ground for the country's first women naval officers. Betty’s training focused on deciphering cryptographic codes. She graduated in July and promptly moved to Washington.

Elizabeth entered the Navy in 1944, working in the communication annex in a department called "Keys" as a codebreaker, specializing in Japanese Naval codes. She successfully led the effort to swiftly break a Japanese code, resulting in the sinking of an enemy convoy. Over the next two years, she worked on a range of codes from several countries and delved into the world of computers when assigned to Russian codes. After achieving the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade, Elizabeth was discharged from the Navy in August 1946.

After her service, Elizabeth applied to Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT for architecture but was rejected on account of her sex. She moved to Princeton, working in architecture and drafting, where she met her husband, a graduate student at Princeton. After marriage, they lived in Charlottesville, VA for three years before relocating to Cincinnati in 1952.

While working in Computer Services at the University of Cincinnati, Elizabeth was invited to an archaeological dig in Cyprus, bringing along The Osborne, the first commercially successful portable computer. She collaborated on the dig during two separate summers.

After spending many years at 9 E Interwood Place in Clifton, she moved to The Kingston House condominiums in East Walnut Hills for the last 20 years of her life. Elizabeth passed away on May 25th, 2015.

Images

9 E Interwood Place, Cincinnati, OH 45220
9 E Interwood Place, Cincinnati, OH 45220 Source: Google Street Views

Location

9 E Interwood Place, Cincinnati, OH 45220 | Private Property

Metadata

Peter Assaf, Gabriel Scott, Brenden Pulte, “Elizabeth “Betty” Stewart – Code Breaker,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed July 18, 2024, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/203.