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Find Your Hello Girl

100 years ago, a brave group of women volunteered to fight for their country-even before they had the right to vote. During World War One, nearly all switchboard operators in the United States were women. Yet when the American Expeditionary Force deployed to France, they used male personnel to staff these vital parts of the telephone network, even though many of these men had never seen a switchboard!

When General Pershing arrived, he knew things had to change. He issued a personal request for a small unit of women to serve as switchboard operators and real-time translators so that French and American officers could coordinate under fire. Over 7,600 women volunteered for the first 100 slots. Eventually, 223 women and 2 men would serve in the Signal Corps Telephone Operator Unit (Female)-colloquially known as the "Hello Girls." They were the first unit of women to directly contribute to combat operations in American history.

In France, the Hello Girls connected over 26 million calls, averaging a speed of just ten seconds. That was six times faster than the men they replaced. Over 30 Hello Girls received individual commendations, and two made the ultimate sacrifice for their country while in Army service. 

Yet they returned home to bad news. Despite serving under commissioned officers, wearing dog tags, rank insignia, and uniforms, swearing the Army Oath, and being subject to courts-martial, the Hello Girls were told they had served as "civilian contractors" instead of soldiers. They were ignored for decades and forgotten by history.

For almost 60 years, the surviving unit members petitioned Congress for the same veterans recognition afforded to their male colleagues and female Army nurses. Finally, in 1977, Congress passed a law paving the way for the Hello Girls and the WASP pilots from WW2 to be recognized as full veterans of the US Armed Forces.

In 2009, the WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal. This is the highest medal bestowed by civilians in the United States. 

Today, our Commission is working to honor the Hello Girls with the same award; and we need YOUR help to bring them the recognition they deserve! Below, you'll find a list of Hello Girls sorted by state for you to explore. Once you're done, we hope you will take a few moments to consider contacting your legislators to support this group of pioneering women and heroic Americans. Congress only awards a handful of Congressional Gold Medals each year, and they need to hear your voice as a constituent saying that the now is the time to honor the Hello Girls on the centenary of their return from France. Emails from readers like you have already secured the commitments of 4 Members of Congress to support the Hello Girls-your voice does make a difference!

Follow these quick steps:

  • Click on your state below.
  • Copy-paste the message in the tab. This is customized for your state. You can read the legislation in question, Congressional Gold Medal bill, S. 206, here
  • Click on the links for the Senators from your state.
  • Fill out the contact form, and check "yes, I'd like a response" from your Senator.
  • Paste the message. We encourage you to customize your note before sending!
  • If you receive a reply from Congress, or would otherwise like to contact our team with information, please forward any and all correspondence to hellogirls@worldwar1centennial.org.

 Thank you for your support!

 

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