Today I am really excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Engima Game by Elizabeth Wein, which is being released on 14th May! Elizabeth has kindly written an amazing blog post for me to share, and I hope you all enjoy it.
A big thank you to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury Kids for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour.
Flying and Factories: A Woman’s War by Elizabeth Wein
One thing that all my characters have in common is that I like to give them jobs. If you go through my books, you’ll find that even if their talents aren’t obvious, my characters all find some kind of work to do, or training that will provide them with work. The Enigma Game, set in World War II, is no exception. From the 15-year-old heroine, Louisa Adair, to the 82-year-old woman she’s hired to look after who used to be a telegraph operator and an opera singer, everyone in the book has work to do. Louisa doesn’t have any formal training beyond high school, but what she’d really like to do is fly.
In the 1930s, a surprising number of women did learn to fly. Aviation was then, as now, a very male-gendered industry, but enlightened young women enjoyed the thrill and novelty of flying planes just the way they enjoyed riding bicycles or driving cars. Learning to fly was expensive, but if you were determined enough, even a sharecropper’s daughter like Bessie Coleman could find sponsorship, or a fish merchant’s daughter like Amy Johnson could support herself with secretarial work while taking flying lessons. After you learned to fly, you could earn your keep by giving instruction or plane rides, or by performing display flights.
The war changed everything – and some things it changed for the better, as far as women in industry was concerned.
As men began to be tied up in the actual fighting of the war, just as had happened in World War I, women began to fill their industrial roles. Suddenly women were able to work in engineering, munitions and shipbuilding, to drive trams and fire engines, and to get paid for it, too. One of my favourite wartime stories is that of Lady Christian Bowman, an earl’s debutante daughter who went to work in an aircraft factory at the age of eighteen building Halifax bombers. Even the teen princess Elizabeth, before she became Queen Elizabeth II, signed up as an Auxiliary Territorial Service driver – the same job done by Louisa’s friend Ellen McEwen in The Enigma Game. There’s a wonderful video of the Queen in her youth, exploring the engine of a military vehicle!
As for aviation, if you were a woman and a pilot, even though you couldn’t fly in combat you could join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), helping to ferry aircraft to support the Royal Air Force. In 1943, the ATA became the first organization in the British government to give men and women equal pay.
Although many women put down their jobs in industry after the war, it certainly helped to sow the seeds of change for later generations. This took longer in some areas than others – in aviation, unfortunately, there were far more pilots than jobs in 1945, so those jobs went to men. It wasn’t until 1987 that British Airways hired Lynn Barton, the airline’s first female commercial pilot. We’ve come a long way since the 1930s, but there’s always another hill to climb.
The Enigma Game ends before the end of World War II. When the book finishes, fictional Ellen is still working for the ATS as a courier and driver, and Louisa is looking forward to learning more about engineering, aviation, and codebreaking. In a changing world, I like to think that they’ll both be able to use some of their acquired skills as they move forward into adult life.
(You can learn more about women and work in wartime here: https://www.striking-women.org/module/women-and-work/world-war-ii-1939-1945)
The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein
Published by: Bloomsbury Kids
Released: 14th May 2020
Windyedge Airfield, Scotland. World War II.
Louisa Adair, newly orphaned and shunned for her mixed-race heritage, has come here to the edge of the world to look after an old lady with a dark past. Jamie Beaufort-Stuart is a flight lieutenant whose squadron is posted to the airfield over winter. Ellen McEwan is a young woman held hostage by the German pilot who lands at Windyedge one wild stormy night carrying a terrible secret.
Three young people desperate to make a difference in a war that has decimated their families, friends and country. When the means to change the course of history falls into their hands, how will they use it? And when the enemy comes looking for them, who will have the courage to strike back?
A thrilling story of wartime secrets, international intrigue and wild courage from the award-winning author of Code Name Verity, with three young heroes you’ll never forget.