This is the story of how America's first women soldiers helped win World War I, earned the vote, and fought the U.S. Army. In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 women to France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard.Read more...
This is the story of how America's first women soldiers helped win World War I, earned the vote, and fought the U.S. Army. In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 women to France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, demanded female "wire experts" when he discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with troops under fire. Without communications for even an hour, the army would collapse.
While suffragettes picketed the White House and President Woodrow Wilson struggled to persuade a segregationist Congress to give women of all races the vote, these competent and courageous young women swore the Army oath. Elizabeth Cobbs reveals the challenges they faced in a war zone where male soldiers welcomed, resented, wooed, mocked, saluted, and ultimately celebrated them. They received a baptism by fire when German troops pounded Paris with heavy artillery. Some followed "Black Jack" Pershing to battlefields where they served through shelling and bombardment. Grace Banker, their 25-year-old leader, won the Distinguished Service Medal.
The army discharged the last Hello Girls in 1920, the same year Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment granting the ballot. When the operators sailed home, the army unexpectedly dismissed them without veterans' benefits. They began a sixty-year battle that a handful of survivors carried to triumph in 1979. With the help of the National Organization for Women, Senator Barry Goldwater, and a crusading Seattle attorney, they triumphed over the U.S. Army.
- ISBN-13: 9780674971479
- ISBN-10: 0674971477
- Publisher: Harvard University Press
- Publish Date: April 2017
- Page Count: 400
- Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-02-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Cobbs (American Umpire), chair in American history at Texas A&M, examines the Signal Corpss female telephone operators during WWI in the first full-length scholarly work of its kind. Her fine study enriches our understanding of Americas participation in its first major European war by focusing on important historical actors who are typically sidelined in military accounts. Under Gen. John Pershings orders, 223 bilingual female operatorsdubbed Hello Girlswere sent to Europe to handle communications among the Allies. Hundreds of women had rushed to apply, eager to demonstrate their patriotism and claim equal citizenship. Cobbs discusses the final phase of the womens suffrage campaign to highlight the connections between military service and citizenship. This information is sometimes awkwardly inserted, diverting attention from the more compelling story of the Hello Girls contributions to the success of the Allied war effort. Grace Banker, a 25-year-old chief operator, efficiently worked the switchboard during the Meuse-Argonne battle. Merle Egan, stationed at Services of Supply headquarters, facilitated communications to guarantee the army received necessary supplies. After the war, the Hello Girls had to fight for formal recognition of their service; the army attempted to classify them as civilian contract employees and deny them veterans benefits. Aficionados of WWI history and womens history will appreciate Cobbss book. Illus. (Apr.)