NEXT PERFORMANCE - April 5   Fairmont State Univ., Fairmont, WVA

The Hello Girls - A Tale of  WWI
   picture taken in France, 1918.
(Courtesy of the Women's Military Memorial)

The Hello Girls

Their story is almost completely unknown which attracted me right away. Anyone who knows me and my history as a feminist activist for the Equal Rights Amendment will understand that a chance to "give them their due" enticed me.

When General John Pershing, the Commander of the American Expedionary Forces,  reached France in 1917 to bring the "Yanks" to the battlefield he was shocked to discover that France did not have the same top notch telephone system of the day that he was accustomed to in the US.  Also an acute problem was that the French operators spoke no English and the Doughboys spoke practically no French. He sent a message to the War Department. "Send over 100 women telephone operators as fast as you can recruit them."

Pershing knew that the war would be won by more than guns - they needed excellent communications with the battlefields and all the camps.

It was a tricky search. Women dominated the role of telephone operators so there were many to pull from on that score. But finding French speakers made the task more difficult. They were recruited into the Signal Corps. These women, 19-35 years old came from across the United States and some from Canada.

They were sent to France on troop ships carrying men headed to the battlefield. They carried out their jobs at stations across France - some were close enough to the battlefields to feel the earth move when the heavy guns were fired.

At the end of the war General Pershing called them "switchboard soldiers.

I hope you will want to hear their story and meet these plucky women!


A video from the Channel 16 show Stories in Time about The Hello Girls and why tell this story.