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140603154428 07 women great war horizontal large galleryHello Girls was the colloquial name for American female switchboard operators in World War I, formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. During World War I, these switchboard operators were sworn into the U.S. Army Signal Corps. 

Congressman Cleaver Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Award Congressional Gold Medal to the ‘Hello Girls’ of WWI 

via the House.gov web site

(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) on March 28 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. As phone operators, these women played a pivotal role in connecting American and French forces on the front lines of battle, helping to translate and efficiently communicate strategy. H.R. 1953 would award these women, the Hello Girls as they came to be known, with the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress—for their service and subsequent sixty-year fight for veteran status and the benefits that are earned with it.

“When I was first told the story of the Hello Girls, it really hit home,” said Congressman Cleaver. “As the nephew of a Tuskegee Airman who went to Europe in defense of freedom during WWII, only to return home with less benefits and recognition than his white counterparts, I can understand how these women must have felt after bravely serving their country only to be told they couldn’t qualify as veterans simply because of their gender.”

Formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators, the Hello Girls were recruited by General John J. Pershing in 1917 as the first group of women to hold non-medical positions in the U.S. Army. Considering telecommunication in battle was still relatively new at the time, General Pershing was looking for experienced individuals that could improve communication on the front lines. As the telephone operator field was dominated by women, General Pershing made the decision to form the specialized unit comprised solely of women. It was required that the women be bilingual in both French and English so that they could effectively communicate and coordinate with French and American forces. By the end of the war, the Hello Girls had connected over 26 million calls in support of the war effort, and even continued to serve in Europe to organize the return of American forces following the armistice.

Read the entire article on the House.gov web site.

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