Betsy Rohaly Smoot delves into Hitt’s accomplished career in her journal article, “Pioneers of U.S. Military Cryptology: Colonel Parker Hitt and His Wife, Genevieve Young Hitt.” Smoot’s writings provide the most context for the majority of the content in this biography.
Genevieve Young was born in 1885 in San Antonio, Texas. She married Parker Hitt in 1911 and worked alongside her husband in the military. She was an expert at using the M138, a sliding strip decoding device her husband created in 1914. Additionally, in 1916 she helped compile his work, the Manual for the Solution of Military Ciphers, the first cryptography instruction manual. While stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Hitt and her husband analyzed and intercepted Mexican government messages during the 1916 Punitive Expedition.
While the army sent Col. Parker overseas in 1917, Hitt moved from Fort Sill to Fort Sam Houston in Texas near her family. In her husband’s absence, Hitt traveled to Illinois to obtain more formal experience in the cryptography field at Riverbank Laboratories. During her studies, she met pioneer cryptographer William Friedman. After receiving training at Riverbank, she went back to Texas to work without a salary, deciphering messages for the Southern Department in the Army. In 1918, Hitt finally received payment for her cryptography labor, earning $1000 a year, working for the Southern Department's Intelligence Officer, Robert L. Barnes.
As an employee, Hitt “coded and decoded official Army intelligence correspondence, maintained control of the Army codebooks in the department, and broke intercepted coded and enciphered messages” (National Cryptologic Museum Foundation). Although Hitt initially entered the cryptography field to support her husband and fulfill a patriotic duty, she apparently derived personal satisfaction with her work.
For example, after Hitt started her first paid job, she wrote a letter to her mother-in-law through which she expressed that she was “getting a great deal out of it [her job],” including “discipline [and] concentration.”
Hitt also revealed that working as a cryptographer “is all so foreign to my training, to my family's old fashioned notions about what and where a woman's place in this world is, etc., yet none of these things seem to shock the family now. I suppose it is the war. I am afraid I will never be contented (sic) to sit down without something to do, even when this war is over and we are all home again.”
Hitt was a trailblazer. As one of the first female cryptologists in the U.S., she not only assisted her famous husband, but crafted a legacy of her own.