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The Hello Girls Telephone Operators of World War I

The Hello Girls Telephone Operators of the Signal Corps in World War I

Of approximately 1,750 applicants, the Army trained 450 women, and 233 ultimately sent overseas to serve as telephone operators. Colloquially dubbed "Hello Girls," these women were primarily stationed in England and France (and Germany after the Armistice was signed); some were stationed to work on the front lines in locations such as Saint Mihiel and Souilly, France.

While the exact origin of "Hello Girl" is unknown, it was a common nickname in the United States for a telephone operator before and during World War I. The female telephone operators of the Signal Corps did not like to be called "Hello Girls," but the name stuck.

"Hello Girls" Telephone Operators of the US Army Signal Corps

The First Unit of American Telephone Operators.

First Unit of Telephone Operators Ready for France - 1918

These twenty-nine young women attached to the Signal Corps all speak English and French fluently. This group includes one Chief Operator, four Supervisors, and twenty-four Operators.

Second Group of Telephone Operators Ready for France, to Serve with the American Expeditionary Forces.

Second Unit of Telephone Operators Ready for France - 1918

The second group, consisting of forty girls, sixteen of whom have been trained by the New York Telephone Company, is ready to leave for France.

Third Unit of Telephone Operators to Go to France

Third Unit of Telephone Operators Arrive in France - 1918

The third detachment of telephone operators to serve under General Pershing in France has arrived safely, according to a cable received from "Over There" on 9 May. As you can imagine, they are welcomed with open arms.

Fourteen of the girls in the Fourth Unit of Telephone Operators for France were trained by the New York Telephone Company.

Fourth Unit of Telephone Operators Arrive In France - 1918

The cable "Arrived safely" is brief, to be sure, but what it means to say is, "Sixty more French-speaking American girls have arrived in France to operate war switchboards for Uncle Sam and our boys."

Fifth Unit of Telephone Operators for General Pershing's Army, from the Forces of the Bell System Photographed on Roof of 195 Broadway, New York, August 2. 1918.

Fifth Unit of Telephone Operators Arrive in France - 1918

The fifth unit of American telephone operators for General Pershing's army in France sailed from an American seaport early in August. Its members are now bravely at work helping in the grand cause of defeating the [Germans].

Sixth Unit Shares in Telephone Work in France Telephone Operators Doing Overseas Service in France “Plug In" for Victory.

Sixth Unit of American Telephone Operators Has Arrived in France - 1918

Naturally, the new unit is inspired by the same high aims that sent the other five across to share in the fortunes of war and give to their country that which they above all others were best fitted to provide telephone service.

Left Side of Panoramic Group Photograph, Seventh Unit of Telephone Operators of the Signal Corps.

Seventh Unit of Telephone Operators Demobilizes - 1919

The 7th Unit of telephone operators encountered a great disappointment. On 26 October 1918, they were preparing to embark, and on 1 November, their trunks and baggage were put on board the steamer Patria.

The First Unit of Telephone Operators Trained for Foreign Service by the Bell System.

223 Women of the Signal Corps Telephone Operators that Served Overseas

In particular, 223 American women came over from the States in six operating units. And some of these “hello girls” got right up into the midst of it, too.

Adele Louis Hoppock

Adele Hoppock and En Route to France - 1918

She was the only Western girl who started across at this time, because of crowded transportation facilities. It is thought that she left on the largest transport afloat, formerly the Vaterland, which was to carry 4,000 soldiers.

Miss Elizabeth Horsman

The Adventures of Miss Elizabeth Horsman and Miss Helen Carey - 1918

At Paris, where I was stationed for two months, President Wilson lived just around the corner from me, and I used to see him riding about in his machine.

Page 360 of Appendix B: Affidavit of Alma H. Hawkins

Affidavit of Alma H. Hawkins - 1977

Alma H. Hawkins was a Signal Corps telephone operator assigned to Unit 4. Her affidavit was used in support before Congress for the "Hello Girls" to obtain VA Benefits in hearings that took place in 1977.

E. M. Stannard, Formerly Lieut.- Col. Stannard, Signal Corps, U. S. Army

Affidavit of Edward Mervin Stannard - 1953

During World War 1, Edward Mervin Stannard served on the staff of the Chief Signal Officer, A.E.F. as Director of Telephone operation and operation engineering and as Director of Telephone and Telegraph services.

Page 358 of Appendix B: Affidavit of Enid M. Pooley (Née Mack)

Affidavit of Enid M. Pooley - 1977

Mrs. Enid M. Pooley, who was Miss Enid A. Mack in 1918, was a part of Unit 7 of the Signal Corps Telephone Operators Group, commonly referred to as the "Hello Girls." She was discharged in December 1918 from the army after the war ended before going overseas.

Third Unit of Telephone Operators to Go to France

Affidavit of Gertrude Hoppock - 1977

In 1917-1918 My Two Sisters, Adele, and Eleanor Were Students at the University of Washington and Fluent in French and English. They Became Telephone Operators in the Signal Corps. Adele Served in the Third Unit and Eleanor in the Fourth Unit.

Affidavit of Helen Bixby Moore, Recognition of VA Benefits, 1977.

Affidavit of Helen Bixby Moore - 1977

Before going to France, I stayed for a couple of weeks at the Prince George Hotel in New York City while being sworn into the Army and getting necessary supplies and clothing.

Page 1, Affidavit of Louis Le Breton Maxwell, Recognition of VA Benefits, 1977.

Affidavit of Louise Le Breton Maxwell - 1977

The First Unit, composed of 33 young women, received orders on 23 February 1918 to proceed to Hoboken, N.J. whore we awaited transportation to France. We were billeted in a former bar, 33 army cots alongside each other.

Page 1, Affidavit of Louis Le Breton Maxwell, Recognition of VA Benefits, 1977.

Affidavit of Louise Le Breton Maxwell - 1977

The First Unit, composed of 33 young women, received orders on 23 February 1918 to proceed to Hoboken, N.J. whore we awaited transportation to France. We were billeted in a former bar, 33 army cots alongside each other.

Affidavit of Marjorie L. McKillop, Recognition of VA Benefitis, 1977.

Affidavit of Marjorie L. McKillop - 1977

Marjorie Leslie McKillop served in Unit 4 of the Signal Corps Telephone Operators. She was ordered with six other operators to Le Havre, where she was stationed until the Armistice.

Page 1, Affidavit of Merle Egan Anderson in Recognition for Purposes of VA Benefits, 1977.

Affidavit of Merle Egan Anderson - 1977

Before sailing for France, we gathered into a room at Bell Telephone Company headquarters in New York City. We were sworn into Army service by a Mr. Darling of the telephone company.

Page 1 of the Affidavit of M. Olive Shaw, Recognition for Purposes of VA Benefits, 1977.

Affidavit of M. Olive Shaw - 1977

In March 1918, I arrived in France. I received orders, a copy of which is attached to this Affidavit, to proceed to the port of embarkation, the first step on the journey to France.

Page 1 of the Affidavit of Oleda Joure Christides, Recognition for Purposes of VA Benefits, 1977.

Affidavit of Oleda Joure Christides - 1977

About seven days after leaving Hoboken, we arrived at Southampton, England. Because a flu epidemic developed on the voyage, we were quarantined on the ship for several days and were not permitted to go onshore.

Exterior View of Women Telephone Operators Home, Signal Corps, Chaumont, Haute Marne, France.

American “Hello Girls” in France Enjoy High Life - 1919

"Hello Girls" In France, soon to be on their way home, have had the times of their lives. '‘Home was never like this. Gee, we live like queens," one girl from Boston writes home.

Artist Portrait of Miss Edmée LeRoux, AEF Signal Corps Telephone Operator in France.

American Telephone Operators Aid Victory - 1918

Picture the pride and delight experienced by the small group of six telephone operators who had their dream realized when the Army sent them into the war zone to share in the stress and the glory of the St. Mihiel drive.

Exhibit B: Application for Membership in Telephone Unit, Adele Hoppock, 1918.

Application for Membership in Telephone Unit in France - 1918

Exhibit B includes some of the responses to the application question by Miss Adele Louis Hoppock. Adele completed her training and was part of the Third Unit of telephone operators to arrive in France.

Members of the Third Unit of Telephone Operators for France Who Were Secured by the New York Telephone Company.

Baker Congratulates Telephone Operators - 1918

Secretary of War, While in France, Officially Commends Work of First Unit of American Girls at War Switchboards —Letters From Some of the First to Go Over.

Where Telephone Girls Live in France. Despite Unpapered Walls, This Room in France in Portable Barracks Has Something of Air of a College Dormitory.

Bay Area Girls at Front During Great Drives - 1918

How California girls of the bay region working as telephone operators with the American First Army in the great St. Mihiel drive, which threw the Germans back on Metz, helped prepare the way for the attack is told in a letter.

Telephone Girl Gets Distinguished Service Medal in Germany.

Birth of the AEF Signal Corps Girls - 1918

A unit of 150 telephone operators, able to speak both French and English, for immediate service in France will be formed under the direction of the Army Signal Corps.

General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing Inspects the Telephone Operators in Paris.

Black Jack's Girls - 1982

Gen. John J. Pershing wanted American telephone operators in France to keep AEF communication lines open at all times; he got them and performed superbly.

She Has Rather an Eye to Business, This Girl, Marjorie Kinnan, of the Signal Corps, Staying at The YWCA Hotel In France.

Blue Triangle Follows the Switchboard - 1919

The women telephone operators of the Signal Corps have played an enviable part, not even surpassed by the work of the nurses, for in many cases, their units were located only twelve miles behind the firing line.

American Telephone Operators near the Front in France.

Brave Girl Soldiers of the Switchboard - 1918

These are just a few words along the way from some of the young women who are at the switchboards at General Pershing's headquarters on lines of communication or in Paris.

Telephone Exchange with Women Operators, Elysees Palace Hotel. Paris, Seine, France.

Brief History of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators - 1996

These women, who retained their civilian status, became members of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit. They are perhaps better known as the "Hello Girls."

Signal Corps Telephone Operators Miss Maria Flood and Miss Louise Beraud.

Chicago Telephone Girls Heroines “Over There” - 1918

American telephone girls on duty here have won the admiration of the whole American army. They remained at their posts in burning wooden barracks in the Moselle region until ordered to quit.

Page 1 of HR 1953, a Bill to Award the Congressional Gold Medal to the "Hello Girls" of World War 1, 28 March 2019.

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

Today, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO) introduced HR 1953, the "Hello Girls" Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019.

A Company of “Switchboard Soldiers" in Uniform Girls Who Will See Service in France as Auxiliaries of the Signal Corps.

Company of Switchboard Soldiers See Service in France - 1918

Misses Kathleen Mitchell, Albertine Aarrents, Mary Marshall, and Emelia Lumpert, the four representatives of the Mountain States Company who will serve with the American Signal Corps in France, will wear the emblem of our Courtesy Club.

Telephone Operators of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, at Camp Dix, New Jersey.

Facts Surrounding the Enlistment and Service of the Signal Corps Telephone Operators - 1977

The following has been edited for clarity and brevity whenever possible. After reading this, the facts remain. One should be able to form an opinion about whether the "Hello Girls" were classified correctly as civilians or reclassified as Army enlisted personnel.

First Unit of Telephone Operators for Service in France.

First American Telephone Girls in France - 1918

When the first group of American women telephone operators arrived in Paris in March, they found, awaiting them, comfortable living quarters made ready by the YWCA.

Adele Louis Hoppock, University of Washington Coed at the Time She Enlisted into the US Army Signal Corps as a Telephone Operator

First Washington Girl Arrives in French Territory - 1918

Several brief articles from 1918, courtesy of the University of Washington Daily and The Seattle Times capture the adventures of Miss Adele L. Hoppock, Miss Eleanor Hoppock, and fellow student Miss Helen Hill in France.

Four of Michigan Telephone Company’s Returned Soldiers.

Four of The Michigan Telephone Company’s “Returned Soldiers” - 1919

Miss Norma B. Finch, Miss Elizabeth Shovar, Miss Faye K. Honey, and Miss Louise M Wilcox, employees of the Michigan State Telephone Company, have just returned from serving as telephone operators in France.

Major General George O. Squier, Who as Chief Signal Officer Has under His Direction the Employees of the Bell System

General Squier in Charge of Aviation and Signal Corps - 1918

On 14 February 1917, he was appointed Chief Signal Officer in charge of both aviation and the Signal Corps, with the rank of Brigadier General. He was promoted to the rank of Major General on 6 October 1917.

Miss Helen Carey, Signal Corps Telephone Operator.

Miss Helen Carey, Telephone Operator Off for France - 1918

Miss Helen Carey, supervisor, Toll office, who has been with the Chicago Telephone Company seven years, has volunteered for telephone service with the American Expeditionary Force in France.

Front Cover Image Showing a Telephone Operator of the First Unit on a Transport Ship Headed for France.

“Hello-Girls” Are Going “Over There” To Help Link Up the Army’s Nerve-Fibers - 1918

A little group of young women has responded to the call of General Pershing. They are going "over there" to become a real part of the Expeditionary Force in France.

American Girls Serving in the Army Signal Corps as Telephone Operators in France, Colloquially Known as "Hello Girls."

Hello Girls of World War I

In America, women primarily made up the workforce of civilian telephone operators. Nearly 10,000 women applied to fill Pershing's request. Those accepted into the program underwent a challenging selection process and agreed to serve for the war duration.

The Telephone Girls of New England "Over There"

Hello—Over There! - Our Telephone Girls Take On Paris - 1918

American telephone girls reign in royal state in France. They are adored by the French and worshipped by the Americans, and yet they are not spoiled.

Signal Corps Girls Receiving Recognition for the Work at the US Army Base Mainstrom, circa 1919.

How the Signal Corps Girls Stayed on the Job - 1919

This is why Miss Grace D. Banker, who has just returned from overseas to her home in Passaic, was personally decorated by Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett with the Distinguished Service Medal.

Celia Grimeke, a US Army Signal Corps Telephone Operator During the Great War.

How the Telephone Girls Performed in France - 1919

The first appeal for volunteers was made in January 1918. By February, the first Unit, composed of 33 girls, had been organized, equipped, and trained in the rudiments of the telephone work and embarked for France.

Grace D. Banker, Chief Telephone Operator, US Army Signal Corps, March 1918.

I Was a “Hello Girl” - 1977

Someone asked me about my work "overseas," and in a second, it was the first week in March 1918, and I was back in a house on River Street, Hoboken. Thirty-three Signal Corps girls were there awaiting orders to sail for France.

Miss Mary C. O'Rourke, Signal Corps Operator, "Fourth Unit," American Expeditionary Force, in a Riding Habit.

Impressions of the A. E. F. by Signal Corps Operator O'Rourke - 1919

For several weeks I felt myself a misfit, even in the bosom of my devoted family, and that is how fifteen months of army life has affected my previous years of undisturbed tranquillity as a civilian.

American Girls Serving in the Army Signal Corps as Telephone Operators in France, Colloquially Known as "Hello Girls."

Information Relative to Telephone Operators for Duty in France - 1918

The telephone unit comprises young women who are physically fit and who speak French and English languages fluently. It is preferred that these young ladies have had experience in telephone switchboard operating.

Fifth Unit of Telephone Operators for General Pershing’s Army, from the Forces of the Bell System.

A Letter from a Fifth Unit Telephone Operator - 1918

A long and interesting letter has been received from Miss Anita Chance of Denver. She is one of our representatives with the Fifth Unit. She writes from Tours, under the date of 27 September 1918.

Adele Louis Hoppock, University of Washington Coed at the Time She Enlisted into the US Army Signal Corps as a Telephone Operator

Letter from Adele Hoppock Mills to Senator Vandenburg - 1935

This Bill will grant military status to 200 American women. I am one who served the Army in France as telephone operators at the principal exchanges.

Third Unit of Telephone Operators to Go to France

Letter from "Hello Girl" Miss Adele Hoppock - 1918

Miss Adele Hoppock was a member of the third group of operators selected by our Company for service in France. She left San Francisco on April 9 and sailed early in May 1918.

Letter from Major Coles to Washington State Bonus Board - 1921

Letter from Major Coles to Washington State Bonus Board - 1921

While it was not practical to commission or enlist them because they were females, these young ladies were nevertheless by their oaths and the rules and regulations for the conduct of armies in the field.

Letter Home from Signal Corps Telephone Operator in France - 1918

Letter Home from Signal Corps Telephone Operator in France - 1918

The following letter will give us all the cheerful conviction that the young lady's spirits are still high and bubbling. We trust that she can now sprint with the old-time velocity and has joined her compatriots on the big job in France.

The “General Pershing Inspection" — at Which the Camera Caught the General Just as He Passed the Smiling Miss Erickson.

Life of Our Telephone Operators in France - 1919

Neither Miss Lydia Erickson nor Miss Mabel Lapp are the sort of people one would expect to break into song, but the smiles that play on their lips and the light that comes to their eyes when they tell of their experiences overseas.

Chicago Long Distance Operators Who Will Serve in France.

Long Distance Operators Off for France - 1918

They are members of one of the first "L. D." units to go. Because of their "L. D." and other qualifications, the requirement that they could speak French was waived.

Military Funeral Procession for Signal Corps Telephone Operator Miss Cora Bartlett at Tours, France.

Military Funeral of Telephone Operator Cora Bartlett - 1919

According to word received here today, Miss Cora Bartlett, formerly a senior supervisor of the toll exchange in the Battle Creek Office of the Michigan State Telephone Company, died in France.

Six Michigan Girls Who Answered the Call for Telephone Operators to Serve “over There"

More Operators for France - 1918

These young women have, of course, entered this service on a purely voluntary basis, all being extremely anxious to go "Over There" where they can give their country even more valuable service.

Signal Corps Telephone Exchange Switchboard at Bordeaux, Gironde, France.

Number Please, AEF - Telephone Operators in France - 1921

A veritable tidal wave of excitement swept across every telephone switchboard, from Maine to California, when General Pershing's cable of 8 November 1917, called for creating a Woman's Telephone Operating Unit was announced from Washington.

"Off Duty" Girls, Caught by the Camera, Enjoying a Social Hour in the Living Room of Their Home in Camp.

Phone Girls Living High - 1918

Unit in France Has Every Luxury. Their living quarters are not in some "ordinary" hotel but more often in some beautiful chateau on one of France's picturesque rivers.

Girls Who Handle Toul "Central" Signal Corps Telephone Operators, Toul, Meurthe Et Moselle, France, 17 January 1919.

Photo Plates - Signal Corps Telephone Operating Unit - 1919

Attached hereto is a record of Photo Plates on file of members of the Signal Corps Telephone Operating Unit, with the names of those in each picture and a description of the image.

On Duty at St. Mihiel. American Telephone Operators on Duty at First Army Headquarters

Signal Corps Telephone Operator Girls Did It - 1918

Six American Signal Corps girls made the St. Mihiel advance a perfect success, thus hastening peace. It was the American YWCA that made it all possible.

The Snapshot of Miss Esther Fresnel Referred to in Her Letter.

Six American Telephone Operators Near the Front - 1918

The most thrilling news in recent correspondence from American girls who have gone to France to operate the telephone system for General Pershing is that six of them have been sent forward into the "zone of advance."

One of the Sleeping Rooms for the Telephone Girls.

Telephone Girls in the Heart of a Military Camp - 1918

Telephone girls in the heart of a military camp. Housewarming as operators serving Uncle Sam occupies a home provided at Camp Upton. The Telephone Review attends.

A Busy Hour at Tours Central Office. Chief Operator Marion Swan Is Watching the Work of Her Operating Force.

The Telephone Girls of St. Mihiel - 1921

The story of what these girls did during that exciting period when the enemy was being squeezed out of the St. Mihiel salient by the mighty pincers of the First American Army.

Telephone Girls on Duty with the Headquarters of the First Army at Souilly, France

The Telephone Girls of Meuse-Argonne - 1921

Immediately following the move of First Army Headquarters from Ligny, near St. Mihiel, to Souilly, near Verdun, the six girls who had handled the lines of communication at the Ligny board.

Chicago Girls in Training for Service as Telephone Operators with American Army.

Telephone Girls to “Hold the Lines" in France - 1918

The Chicago Telephone Company is training the Chicago girls. Their school facilities have been placed at the disposal of the government.

Example of a War Rick Insurance Certificate the the Hello Girls, Female Telephone Operators

Telephone Operators Insured - 1918

An amendment to the War Risk Insurance Act now before Congress, which provides for proper war insurance for telephone operators, has received the hearty endorsement of the War Work Council of the National YWCA.

Volunteers Who Are in Training to Operate the American Telephone System in France for the Army under General Pershing.

Telephone Operators Join Our Army - 1918

General Pershing Wants Volunteers to Operate American Telephone System in France —Must Be Bi-linguists — Other Qualifications Necessary —Telephone Companies Selecting and Training Applicants.

Photo of Signal Corps Telephone Girls in France.

Tribute to American Telephone Operators in France - 1919

The bringing of women telephone operators to France for service with the American Expeditionary Forces had no precedent. For this reason, the experiment was watched with unusual interest.

Inez Ann Murphy Crittenden (1897-1918), Chief Telephone Operator, Second Unit, Signal Corps, Paris, France.

Tribute to US Army Signal Corps Chief Telephone Operator 1887-1918

Death came to Inez Ann Murphy Crittenden on the morning the armistice was signed to a California woman who had done noble and brilliant work in France in the service of her country.

American Telephone Operators Near the French Front.

Woman Telephone Operators in France - 1920

The Army decided the use of female telephone operators in France for two reasons. The first of these was the unquestioned superiority of women as telephone switchboard operators.

 

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