Hello Girls

"Hello Girls" in France, March 1918

“Hello Girls” in France, March 1918

The Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit (informally known as the “Hello Girls”) was composed of telephone switchboard operators who served with the U.S. Army overseas during World War I

Background

In late 1917, General John Pershing (commander of the American Expeditionary Forces) called for women to serve with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe as telephone switchboard operators. Preference was given to women who were bilingual in English and French and had previous switchboard experience.  

Thousands of women applied, and after a rigorous selection process, more than 200 were eventually selected to serve overseas. 

Wartime Service

The first telephone operators entered training at Camp Franklin (now Fort Meade) in January 1918 and arrived in France that March

Led by Chief Operator Grace Banker, the “Hello Girls” served primarily in France, facilitating communication among the U.S. Army and its allies. The women worked long hours in a fast-paced environment, relaying calls and serving as translators. They sometimes faced danger when serving near the front, working through artillery and aerial bombardments. 

Their service was highly praised, and in 1919 Grace Banker was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her exceptional contributions during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives.

After the War

Many of the “Hello Girlsstayed in Europe after the armistice to maintain communications during the drawdown of troops.

When the women returned to the United States, the Army refused to grant them veteran status, considering them civilians working for the Army rather than military personnel. The women fought for recognition over the next 60 years, and in 1977 a bill was passed recognizing the “Hello Girls” as veterans. The surviving women finally received honorable discharges and veterans benefits in 1979.

Learn more about the Hello Girls through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Hello Girls

Announcement that unit of telephone operators will be formed for U.S. Army Signal CorpsAnnouncement that unit of telephone operators will be formed for U.S. Army Signal Corps 05 Dec 1917, Wed Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comList of initial requirements to join the Army Signal Corps telephone operator unitList of initial requirements to join the Army Signal Corps telephone operator unit 20 Jan 1918, Sun The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.comArticle recruiting bilingual women to serve with the Army Signal Corps as telephone operatorsArticle recruiting bilingual women to serve with the Army Signal Corps as telephone operators 22 Feb 1918, Fri The Times (Munster, Indiana) Newspapers.comFirst female Signal Corps telephone operators will soon depart for France (includes list of names)First female Signal Corps telephone operators will soon depart for France (includes list of names) 03 Mar 1918, Sun Times Union (Brooklyn, New York) Newspapers.comNewspaper article spotlighting some of the first Newspaper article spotlighting some of the first "Hello Girls" in the Signal Corps 05 Mar 1918, Tue The Brattleboro Daily Reformer (Brattleboro, Vermont) Newspapers.comSpotlight on two California women who will serve with the Signal Corps as telephone operatorsSpotlight on two California women who will serve with the Signal Corps as telephone operators 31 Mar 1918, Sun The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.comArticle highlighting role Signal Corps Article highlighting role Signal Corps "Hello Girls" will have while serving overseas 28 Apr 1918, Sun The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) Newspapers.comBrief history of Brief history of "Hello Girls" & descriptions of nationalities, uniform, and application process 30 Jun 1918, Sun The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) Newspapers.comGroup photo of first unit of Army Signal  Corps telephone operators in FranceGroup photo of first unit of Army Signal Corps telephone operators in France 19 Jul 1918, Fri Passaic Daily News (Passaic, New Jersey) Newspapers.comNewspaper prints a letter from a telephone operator serving with the Signal Corps in FranceNewspaper prints a letter from a telephone operator serving with the Signal Corps in France 21 Jul 1918, Sun Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.comFeature article about the Feature article about the "Hello Girls" serving with the Signal Corps overseas (including photos) 18 Aug 1918, Sun Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) Newspapers.com"'Hello Girls' Don't Like Name; To Be Known Officially as Woman's Telephone Unit" 13 Sep 1918, Fri Evening Capital (Annapolis, Maryland) Newspapers.comYWCA assists with housing women Signal Corps telephone operators in FranceYWCA assists with housing women Signal Corps telephone operators in France 26 Sep 1918, Thu Ardmore Statesman (Ardmore, Oklahoma) Newspapers.comDescription of experiences of Signal Corps Description of experiences of Signal Corps "Hello Girls" stationed in Paris, France 29 Sep 1918, Sun The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.comNewspaper article about Signal Corps Newspaper article about Signal Corps "Hello Girls," including quotes, firsthand accounts & photos 06 Oct 1918, Sun Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) Newspapers.com"Hello Girls" (including Grace Banker) work near the front lines during St. Mihiel Offensive 23 Oct 1918, Wed The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky) Newspapers.comNewspaper article highlighting World War I Newspaper article highlighting World War I "Hello Girls" of the Signal Corps, including photos 24 Nov 1918, Sun The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) Newspapers.comSignal Corps telephone operators remain in France with the U.S. Army after end of WWISignal Corps telephone operators remain in France with the U.S. Army after end of WWI 14 Apr 1919, Mon The Greenville News (Greenville, South Carolina) Newspapers.comLouise Le Breton gives firsthand account of her time as a telephone operator in the Signal CorpsLouise Le Breton gives firsthand account of her time as a telephone operator in the Signal Corps 25 May 1919, Sun San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Hello Girl" Grace Banker is awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her wartime service 19 Jun 1919, Thu Spokane Chronicle (Spokane, Washington) Newspapers.comExperiences of Experiences of "Hello Girls" serving at the front in France during World War I 26 Jun 1919, Thu Monmouth Democrat (Freehold, New Jersey) Newspapers.comInterview with Interview with "Hello Girl" Grace Banker, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in WWI 21 Sep 1919, Sun The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama) Newspapers.comInterview with Interview with "Hello Girl" Celia Grimmeke about her time in the Signal Corps during WWI 19 Oct 1919, Sun The Butte Miner (Butte, Montana) Newspapers.comExcerpt from an article featuring interviews with Excerpt from an article featuring interviews with "Hello Girls" about their experiences during WWI 31 Jan 1920, Sat The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) Newspapers.comFrench woman receives U.S. citizenship for her service as a telephone operator in the Signal CorpsFrench woman receives U.S. citizenship for her service as a telephone operator in the Signal Corps 30 Oct 1920, Sat Tucson Citizen (Tucson, Arizona) Newspapers.comArmy Army "Hello Girls" continue to fight for veteran status 60 years after their World War I service 07 Sep 1977, Wed The Capital (Annapolis, Maryland) Newspapers.com"Hello Girls" finally receive honorable discharges & veterans status 60 years after WWI 30 Aug 1979, Thu The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) Newspapers.comVeterans Administration looks for surviving Veterans Administration looks for surviving "Hello Girls" who served in the Signal Corps during WWI 20 Oct 1979, Sat Casper Star-Tribune (Casper, Wyoming) Newspapers.com
"Hello Girls," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/world-war1/hello-girls/ : accessed December 9, 2021)