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The Hello Girls: America's First Women Soldiers And Their Fight For Recognition

Only six women, working three at a time in 12-hour shifts, keep Pershing’s headquarters connected with the rest of the Army during the Battle of St. Mihiel. Helmets and gas masks hang from their chairs. Left-to-right: Berthe Hunt, Tootsie Fresnel, Grace Banker.
Only six women, working three at a time in 12-hour shifts, keep Pershing’s headquarters connected with the rest of the Army during the Battle of St. Mihiel. Helmets and gas masks hang from their chairs. Left-to-right: Berthe Hunt, Tootsie Fresnel, Grace Banker.

In World War I, U.S. General John Pershing recruited over 200 women for a dangerous and crucial assignment.

These women were sent through submarine-infested waters to the front lines, where they were given uniforms and placed in charge of one of the most effective tools the U.S. military had in fighting the war – the telephone.

With helmets and gas masks near-at-hand, the women connected thousands of calls a day, relaying information across the battlefield. Losing telephone connections for even just an hour could mean the difference between victory and defeat and cost countless lives.

The women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps were heroes in the war. But when they returned home, they soon learned that the government that had recruited them for this mission didn’t even consider them veterans.

They didn’t get veterans’ benefits or medical care, or, when they died, military funerals.

It took decades of lobbying to get the women — nicknamed the Hello Girls — the recognition they had earned. Their story is told in historian Elizabeth Cobbs’ new book.

GUESTS

Elizabeth Cobbs, Professor of American History, Texas A&M University; research fellow, Stanford University’s Hoover Institute; author, “The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers”; @Elizabeth_Cobbs

For more, visit http://the1a.org.

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