Four Heroines of the Localization Industry

Four Heroines of the Localization Industry

“Ironically, the memory of the women heroes of World War I was largely eclipsed by the very women they had inspired.” – Kathryn J. Atwood.

We dedicate our post this week, on the 100th anniversary of women obtaining suffrage in the United Kingdom, to celebrate International Women’s Day, and to remember unsung heroines of the First World War who used their language skills as a weapon for their countries.

Marguerite McArthur managed to join the Intelligence Department of the War Office within the Translation Bureau shortly after it was created in 1915. A fluent speaker of French and German, she was an invaluable asset to the Translation Bureau where she went on to act on occasions as the Deputy Superintendent, before joining the Young Men’s Christian Association as a French teacher in 1918.

Mildred Aldrich was an American citizen who moved to France in 1896, and worked as a foreign correspondent and translator in the Marne River Valley, where the First Battle of the Marne took place in 1914. She is most famous for her wartime letters which influenced the US entry into the war, for which she received the French Legion of Honor in 1922.

Elizebeth Smith Friedman was an infamous cryptologist whose “partner in crime” was her husband, William.  While his achievements are well documented, Elizebeth’s have only recently come to light. Her role in breaking codes in WWI and her subsequent feats have rightly earned her recognition today as one of the greatest code-breakers in history.

Agnes Meyer was an American cryptologist who examined letters and telegrams during WWI and moved onto create codes and ciphers for the Navy. With strong skills in French, German, Japanese and Latin, she was also key to the Second World War efforts later on in life.

These women are a true inspiration for leading the way in high profile translation and cryptology roles in a world where men dominated these fields. While they may not have been militant suffragettes, they helped change attitudes towards what women could do socially and intellectually, and their importance in both the World War and challenging the status quo shouldn’t be underestimated.

We hope that the legacy of each of these women remains alive and well in motivating and inspiring many more women to join and progress professionally in the language industry, including at Donnelley Language Solutions, where we are proud of the many young women who work for us using their language skills.


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To commemorate the achievements of these remarkable women predecessors to today’s language services industry, we’ve published Heroines of the Localization Industry: The World War I Women the World Forgot, by Alex Edwards. Fill out the form below to receive your free copy!