Bill H. R. 1953 “Hello Girls”

There were approximately 223 American ladies who served in France during World War One. They were not nurses but rather a new position, that of a member of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. They were sworn into the U. S. Army Signal Corps.

This position was suggested by General John J. Pershing to improve communications during the war in Europe. He saw that advertisements appeared in all the major American newspapers. All females who were accepted had to be bilingual in English and French because they would be serving in France. Also, they had to have a college degree and be single, but some married women were accepted. Just their husbands could not be stationed in Europe. Pershing felt women had the patience and perseverance to do long, arduous detailed work.

When the call went out over 7,000 women applied for the positions. Yet after careful screening, only 450 were accepted at first, with 223 serving. Most were between 18 and 25 years old. Those chosen had been former switchboard operators. They did have to have Signal Corps training at what was then Camp Franklin in Maryland.

The term ‘Hello Girls’ was given these communication signal corp members because that was a phrase used prior to the war for women who handled a switchboard.

The earliest arrivals, 33, headed for France left the United States after training in March 1918. Most were stationed in French area and some in parts of England.

All wore Army uniforms, had ‘dog tags’ and subject to Army regulations but basically still considered to be civilians employed the military. Remember women in America still did not have the right to vote in 1918.

They did have the skill and cutting edge technology for the early 1900s. The Hello Girls were the first women to be sent to war by the U.S. Army, working as telephone switchboard operators and connecting 26 million calls throughout the First World War. Their skills proved they could connect a call in about 10 seconds — men in the Signal Corps often took a full minute.

Decades later in the US Army Signal Center in Fort Gordon, GA, a section is dedicated to those ladies of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit.

In March 2019, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) introduced H.R. 1953, the “Hello Girls” Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill that would honor over 220 American women who served as phone operators with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I. True, now are alive but their descendants would be proud of their ancestor’s achievements.

IF you had an ancestor who was a ‘Hello Girl’ in France during World War One or even if you just want to offer your support of those ladies to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, send a letter giving your support.

If you are not sure you had an ancestor with the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators in France during World War I, do some research.

Example of a letter or email to your congressional person:

Thank you for your continued service to our country.

As a constituent, I would like you to support H.R. 1953, the “Hello Girls” Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill that serves to honor the heroism and patriotism of more than 200 women who served our country as battlefield telephone operators in WWI. Will you sign on as a co-sponsor? Thank you.

Here are a few names of those who served.

Yvonne Gauthier died March 19, 1965 and is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Chelmsford. She never married.

  • Leontine LaMoureax married James R. O’Connor and had a son Richard. She died in February of 1984 and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
  • Eugenie Racicot died July 14, 1979  is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery. She never married.
  • Olive Shaw of Boston was the personal secretary in Washington, DC to Edith Nourse Rogers. She retired to Littleton, MA. She was awarded the Victory Medal in 1979. She was divorced. She is the first military burial at the National Cemetery in Bourne, MA on October 14, 1980 in section 1, grave 1.
  • Nellie F. Snow, Chief Operator died in January 1963. I don’t know where she is buried but her parents are buried in Edson Cemetery. She never married.

You check the National Archives in St. Louis, Mo, to see what might be available, plus local hometown newspapers might have carried a story on someone who was accepted in the corps.

Photos: The female signal corps telephone operators ‘Hello Girls’

Related Blogs:

Non-Military Phone Operators

Submit a Veteran’s Story

Ancestors – 100 years Ago

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