One of the joys of our craft are the discoveries we make while doing research. I love it when I find a poison I’ve yet to write about, or some sort of technology that is cutting edge spyware.
I also love it when I uncover some historical tidbit that puts the heroines we write about — women sleuths — in perspective.
In that regard, I’m so glad I discovered The Bletchley Circle.
This new three-episode PBS series takes place in 1952, and it is based on women who worked in Bletchley Park, a grand estate in the Buckinghamshire, England, which housed Great Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School during World War II. At its peak, 6769 women were employed at Bletchley Park and its outstations, as opposed to 2225 men. However, few of the women were ‘codebreakers,’ per se. Whereas the men were usually crossword experts, linguists, chess champions, polyglots or mathematicians recruited from England’s top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, the women came via personal references, and worked primarily in the areas of operations and interception, and of course clerical administration. Is it any wonder the men were nicknamed “boffins” (a term meaning eggheads) and the women were known as “debs” (for debutantes)?
The television series picks up seven years after the war. Unlike their male counterparts, who were promoted into other positions within military intelligence, such as the Foriegn Office, MI6, or the diplomatic corps, the show’s four heroines — Susan, Millie, Jean and Lucy — are leading mundane lives as housewives, or are working in unskilled jobs. But by the time a serial killer has taken his twelfth victim, the women have reacquainted, and have banded together in order to use the skills they honed at Bletchley Park to catch the killer.
We’ve come a long way, ladies.
I think you’ll enjoy the trailer, below. If so, catch the episodes on demand, or online, at PBS.org.
Oh, and a reminder: don’t forget to enter my contest for a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice celebrating the launch of The Housewife Assassin’s Relationship Survival Guide.