I want to thank you so much for your book, Code Girls. My mother, Evelyn Boyette (White), worked at Arlington Hall during World War II, and I loved the stories she had about living in Arlington (in the garden apartments at Buckingham Village) and then sharing a house in Washington on P Street. Dot’s story reminded me so much of things I had heard from Mama. Like Dot and Crow, Mama and her friends posed for all sorts of pictures that were popular in the 40s, with everyone looking like Rita Hayworth or something. She had a photograph book from those days, and my sisters & I used to tease her unmercifully about those poses, and how even the girls used to give each other pictures and sign them in the bottom right corner like movie stars. Everybody seemed to have a nickname—Mama’s friends all called her “Boy’t.”
When the Smithsonian Institute’s exhibit on computing opened many years back, I was very excited about having the opportunity to show off a bit by showing my mother the kind of work I’d been doing in information technology. To my absolute surprise, she pointed to a picture at the start of the exhibit that had been taken in Arlington Hall and told me that was exactly the kind of room that she worked in while she was at Arlington Hall. She looked at the picture closely to see if there was anyone she recognized, but if so, she didn’t say. From time to time, when I’d asked her about her work at Arlington Hall, she’d always say “secretarial stuff,” but I noticed that the young ladies in those pictures didn’t look like they were doing secretarial stuff.
She told me that before she left Arlington Hall, her supervisor took her aside and told her that “they” would like for her to continue her work, and that she would be working in a new career field involving an “amazing new machine.” She told her supervisor that as much as she enjoyed her work, she hoped to return to North Carolina and marry her 1st Lieutenant B-25 pilot when he got out of the Army-Air Force. She did exactly that. I guess that “amazing new machine” just might have been the Eniac.
Mama had finished two years at Atlantic Christian College in her home town of Wilson, NC, when she came to Washington. She told me that it was always hard for her to believe that my Grandparents let her go to Washington, but how much she loved those times. Her favorite spot was Garfinckel’s Department Store—also one of my favorite spots when I moved to Washington in 1970.