For the Wire Men and Girls in France - 1918
Back Our Girls over There United War Work Campaign, 1918. YWCA Poster for the United War Work Campaign Showing a Young Woman Seated at a Switchboard with Soldiers in the Background. Clarence F. Underwood, Artist. Library of Congress, LC # 93510431. GGA Image ID # 18e26d0369
Organizations Which Are Helping on the Fight by Backing Up the Fighters Both in the Front Lines and Behind Them—All Are Backed by the Home Organizations Which Home People Support—Contribute Early! By Clarice Nissley.
Muddy roads, cut into cradle holes by the trucks and supply trains that had been pressing by since dawn, ran by the fiat, one-door building that stood at the crossroads. The Red Triangle of the Y. M. C. A. was on the signpost set up in front of it.
Across the roadway a bunch of mules, unhitched from the ammunition carts, had been penned while their drivers were inside the building. A construction gang, coming from the direction in which the wagons were returning empty, stopped their car by the side of the mule pen. They had been stringing new wires ahead of the artillery. Ten hours before on the way out, they had stopped at this same hut for hot coffee.
The small, unplastered room was crowded when they again went in. At one counter two of the mule drivers were ordering fried egg sandwiches. There were too many men for chairs, and they were sitting on the tables and packing boxes. It was not a lively crowd. They had come back from hard work, and to increase their weariness, had been the mud. All they wanted was warmth, a place to sit down, and something hot to eat.
The secretaries in charge of the hut were seeing that they got all three. Both of the men in charge had been on duty since the rush had started just before daybreak.
They had sold the last package of cigarettes at noon; their candy case was empty. But they were still selling sandwiches and sweeping the mud out the front door that the men tracked in.
There were two truck drivers present who had gone through a hitter fusillade that day with a load of ammunition and had come out without a dent on their car. They told their story. Then one of the linemen who had been cited for going out six times during a sharp attack to patch the same little stretch of single wire, told his. Before long, soldiers and secretaries forgot how tired they were and that they had no cigarettes, and all were talking.
The Red Triangle hut had given them a place to be comfortable. When they moved on, they would come upon a K. of C. room or a portable little hutment of the Salvation Army. The K. of C. secretary would give them more hot drinks and food and at the Salvation hutment there would be real women to talk to.
To all the specialized units which are fighting the war—the railroad men, the telegraphers, telephone squads, mechanics, the soldiers unassigned on the move with never a stopping place—the hut of the Y. M. C. A., or the Salvation Army, or K. of C. is an open roadhouse, where they can stop for supplies, watch a movie, listen to music, or trade stories. Their secretaries are there to help on the fight by helping the fighters, and back of them are the home organizations which the home people support.
Like the men who lay the railroads, the corps of men who string up the telephone wires and build the listening posts are the old-time runners ahead of the army. No matter how far the infantry plunges ahead, they keep the base in instant communication with the farthest advanced line. A wire shot away in the midst of an attack, must be repaired summarily, and the man who crawls out to fix the connection makes himself a target for the sharpshooters.
Drilling is Part of Training of Women's Telephone Unit of the Signal Corps. Telephony, 2 November 1918. GGA Image ID # 19b349ba97
When the telephone units were recruited for the first divisions of the American Expeditionary Force, the linemen, wire chiefs and troublemen were not the only employees whose departure left the big telephone companies short of workers. The women operators went also. Their applications came promptly upon the call of the government and they were sent to France in order that the officer who had a hurry call need not hang up his receiver while he hunted up the number in a French dictionary.
The Signal Corps units which went over in the first sailings were made up of women switchboard operators, telegraphers, automobile drivers, and other specialized workers who relieved men back of the lines. Responsibility for the safeguarding and care of the girls during their entire stay in France as well as on the trip across, was entrusted by the government to the YWCA
While they were waiting in New York to sail, the association prepared quarters for them in the National YWCA Training School. In France, it has taken over two hotels, one in Paris and one in Tours, and an unoccupied country place at St. Nazaire as residences. The Blue Triangles of the YWCA on their entrances not only mark barracks for the women of the Signal Corps—they are clubrooms in which a home spirit has been created and where association secretaries provide entertainment and direct the girls’ recreation.
These agencies which have followed the armies and given their individuals care and which have offered safeguards to all the women affected by the war, are co-operating in a war drive in the week of November 11 to 18. The sum to be raised in the United War Work campaign is $170,500,000, and the organizations combining are the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the National Catholic War Council, the Jewish Welfare Board, the War Camp Community Service, the American Library Association, and the Salvation Army.
Clarice Nissle, "For the Wire Men and Girls in France," in Telephony: The American Telephone Journal, Chicago: The Telephony Publishing Company, Vol. 75, No. 18, Saturday, 2 November 1918. pp. 15-16.