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Tue, Oct 17

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Zoom

Liza Mundy, "The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA"

Hear from Liza Mundy over Zoom speak about her new book, The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA. The acclaimed author of Code Girls explores the history of women at the Central Intelligence Agency, from its founding in 1947 to its reckoning after 9-11.

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Liza Mundy, "The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA"
Liza Mundy, "The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA"

Time & Location

Oct 17, 2023, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT

Zoom

About this session

Created in the aftermath of World War Two, the Central Intelligence Agency relied on women even as it attempted to channel their talents and keep them down. Women sent cables, made dead drops, and maintained the agency’s secrets. Despite discrimination—even because of it—women who started as clerks, secretaries, or unpaid spouses rose to become some of the CIA’s shrewdest operatives. They were unlikely spies—and that’s exactly what made them perfect for the role. Because women were seen as unimportant, pioneering female intelligence officers moved unnoticed around Bonn, Geneva, and Moscow, stealing secrets from under the noses of their KGB adversaries. Back at headquarters, women built the CIA’s critical archives—first by hand, then by computer. And they noticed things that the men at the top didn’t see. As the CIA faced an identity crisis after the Cold War, it was a close-knit network of female analysts who spotted the rising threat of Al Qaeda—though their warnings were repeatedly brushed aside. After the 9/11 attacks, more women joined the Agency as a new job, “targeter,” came to prominence. They showed that data analysis would be crucial to the post-9/11 national security landscape—an effort that culminated spectacularly in the CIA’s successful efforts to track down Bin Laden in his Pakistani compound. Propelled by the same meticulous reporting and vivid storytelling that infused Code Girls, The Sisterhood offers a riveting new perspective on history, revealing how women at the CIA ushered in the modern intelligence age, and how their silencing made the world more dangerous.

Liza Mundy is an award-winning journalist and the New York Times-bestselling author of five books including her latest work, The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA (2023). Her narrative non-fiction aims to engage, delight, and inform readers by providing a compelling take on important parts of American history that have long been overlooked, expanding our collective understanding of our past by telling true stories of the people, often unsung, who shaped our world. Kate Moore, author of Radium Girls, called her “one of our foremost historians.” The Sisterhood recounts the true story of the women espionage officers—tough, brilliant, resilient—who helped build the world’s foremost spy agency. It received starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus, which named it one of the most anticipated non-fiction titles of fall 2023, calling it “a story that deserves to be told about women who deserve to be remembered.” Pulitzer-Prize winning author Steve Coll called it a “rip-roaring read about spycraft” that rewrites our understanding of the events before and after the 9-11 attacks. Her previous book, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II (2017), tells another true story of women’s contributions to American intelligence, recounting the lives and legacy of more than 10,000 women recruited to break Axis codes during World War II. Code Girls was a New York Times best-seller, a Washington Post best-seller, and a Wall Street journal best-seller. It won awards including “Best General Audience Intelligence Book” of 2018 from the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, which said that “Code Girls does for women of that era what Hidden Figures did for African American women of the 1960s and Windtalkers did for the native American code communicators of World War II.”   A former staff writer for the Washington Post, Mundy is also the New York Times-bestselling author of Michelle: A Biography, a 2008 biography of former First Lady Michelle Obama; and The Richer Sex, which explored the forces behind women’s rising economic power. She has appeared on television and radio shows including The Colbert Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, MSNBC, CNN, C-Span, Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A former staff writer for The Washington Post, she writes for the Atlantic, Politico, and Smithsonian, among others. She lives in Washington, DC–not far from the sites of both the Army and Navy WWII codebreaking operations–and in Los Angeles, CA. At various points in her life as a working parent she has worked full-time, part-time, all-night, at home, in the office, remotely, in person, on trains, in the car, alone, in crowds, under duress, and while simultaneously making dinner.

Follow Liza: @lizamundy

Order her book here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/653184/the-sisterhood-by-liza-mundy/

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