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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hello Girls - WWI/ Women's History, part 4

The story of the "Hello Girls" truly is Women's History.  There are two ways it qualifies: it is the story of women moving into new areas of involvement, including warfare; but it also involves a 60 year-long battle to finally gain veteran's status and, even then, not conferring it upon the majority who had died.

Lois as Oleda at the "Doughboy" statue, Bay City
 My own reenactments as Oleda Joure Christides have shown the spotlight primarily on Michigan's telephone operators.  Here I've shared the story from this region, which included the Chicago district.  The women were all young and on an international adventure they normally would never have expected.  Because the reactions from the Chicago operators are clearly common to "Hello Girls" I want to be sure and give it, too.

While I have limited ways to change the reproduction here of the articles from Bell Telephone News, today's articles all are from Volume 9 and each of the items given this month from the corporate periodical are free e-books from Google Books.  I heartily recommend their volumes for a look back into how the business world viewed women differently.  Articles about administrators and also the men who became soldiers are very different.  Social news related to women today would be considered slanted toward trivial matters.  Additional articles are about fashion, even including some patterns, and homemaking topics.  There's the section titled "Of Interest to Our Girls" -- yes, today we would say "Women", but beyond that the tone and topics reflect another era, although articles, among the many "Conducted by Mrs. F.E. Dewhurst", about the returning operators show a glimpse into their world and include reactions you might expect from young soldiers of either gender.  Beyond that, I found interesting September of 1919 has an article glimpsing the changing world of the 20th Century, "Labor Must Turn Deaf Ear to Bolsheviki, I.W.W. and Socialist Cure-Alls."

Notice that headline to an article below my second article about influenza and both articles also mention illness or quarantine.  Spanish Influenza was a two-year worldwide pandemic stretching from 1918 to 1920 killing the unlikely population of those same young adults in the war, unlike the usual mortality among more vulnerable age groups.  Of course, while the disease wasn't just on the battlefield, wartime conditions were perfect for spreading the disease.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hello Girls - WWI/ Women's History, part 3

So much appears in Bell Telephone News volume 9 that it needs more than one article.  It opens with this cover showing both the "Hello Girls" and a male soldier for the August 1919 number
That's issue Number 1.  By the appearance of this issue Victory did indeed crown the American Expeditionary Forces and the Bell Telephone News was filled with news of returns from "Over There."

While the A.E.F. officially was established July 5, 1917, and last week's "Storytelling + Research" showed the first 33 of the "Hello Girls" arriving in Paris in March of 1918, the Timeline of World War I shows how quickly their entry made a difference.  While their motto of "War to end all wars" wasn't fulfilled, World War I was certainly stalemated until the A.E.F. arrived.  General Pershing kept them separate and refused to let the U.S. simply fill gaps in the allied armies.  As a result the cry of "La guerre est finie!" ("The war is over!") erupted on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. 

Oleda Joure Christides, whom I portray in telling about the "Hello Girls", was in the final unit sent to France.  She was barely 20 years old and so she was among the few, 50, still alive when in 1977 Congress recognized their service as true members of the U.S. Army.  There were even fewer by the time the army sent the official recognition of an honorable discharge and long overdue Victory Medal.  Those who died before receiving it were not given even that. 

Here's what appeared in the next issue of Bell Telephone News about Oleda and her friend and supervisor, Louise Gordon.
Bell Telephone News, Volume 9, Number 2, November 1919
Maj. Gen. Squier
They were close enough that when a fellow operator had to accompany Oleda on leave visiting her brother, Wallace, Louise was chosen.  It also mentions returning with another Michigander and head of the Signal Corps, Major General George Owen Squier.  His engineering and inventions included multiplexing, which he invented in 1910 and gave American communications an advantage over the Germans lacking it.

One "Hello Girl" who did not return, Cora Bartlett, was the subject of an earlier article here on July 11, 2015.   I strongly recommend clicking that hotlink.  Because the photos there were removed (I believe by the Hillsdale Historical Society, to whom I gave information about her) this photo combines two segments of "In the Camera's Eye" that formed the center of each issue.  Cora's portrait spanned both pages and doesn't align completely.
Portrait in Bell Telephone News, Volume 9, Number 3; Funeral Volume 9, Number 5

Hillsdale County area provided three operators, Ms. Gordon from Litchfield, who worked in Detroit, Cora Bartlett, and Norma Finch, who fell in love with and soon married Captain Ellis Joel Carman shortly after her return. 
Bell Telephone News, Volume 9, Number 7, page 6 - February 1920

Later in that same issue on page 11 it's interesting to read of the need for new employees.
Bell Telephone News, Vol. 9, No. 7, p. 11 (February 1920)
Prowling old issues of Bell Telephone News isn't always easy.  Information sometimes appears in small bits of chatter with little chronological timing.  On page 6 of Volume 9, Number 5, (December 1919)  this comment was placed under the Jackson District. 
   "Hillsdale is not Paris, but Miss Norma Z. Finch and Miss Elizabeth Shovar are quite content at the former exchange and have no desire to return to the French metropolis.

   "When the call came from the Signal Corps for operators, Miss Finch of Hillsdale and Miss Shovar of Detroit responded.  They became 'buddies' in France.  They were 'buddies' through the grueling days of the last advance on Paris when they knew that in case of evacuation, the Signal Corps would be among the last to leave.  During the long months after the armistice the exchanges were still operated in Paris.  Thousands had returned home and the operators wanted to go home, but they stayed until the A. E. F. was sufficiently demobilized to discontinue the service.

   "Miss Finch and Miss Shovar are glad to be home.  They appreciate everything about the town as nobody can who has not had their experience."

Here's an earlier article from the previous month in November 1919 about the return of Ms. Finch and Ms Shovar with two other Detroit operators.
Bell Telephone News Vol. 9, No. 4 (November 1919)

Those same operators and Ms. Gordon joined with Oleda Joure to meet in a stateside memorial service for Cora Bartlett after her burial was in France. 

These articles were part of the return to the United States, but the war had changed the world and more would be needed than just "Girls -- a lot of 'em."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hello Girls - WWI/ Women's History, part 2

Last week I posted articles from the May 1918 issue of Bell Telephone News about the newly formed Army Signal Corps unit of telephone operators who would come to be known as the "Hello Girls."  This wasn't the first that the company periodical discussed its war work, in fact this was the back cover in October of 1917.
Bell Telephone News, Vol. 7, No. 3, October 1917

This points out that not all telephone work was done overseas.  There was an enlargement of A.T. and T. facilities in Washington, D.C.  Some women, who also were part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, worked within the United States.  They, too, were part of the 60 year effort to finally be recognized as veterans.

The following year, this appeared in May 1918 before the adventure of the Michigan Hello Girls moved to Europe.
Bell Telephone News, Vol. 7 No. 10, May 1918
These four Detroit women are not mentioned again.  (Operators from Detroit, Hillsdale, and Marine City were the only Michigan Hello Girls.) By this article in May of 1918 fifty applicants, most without telephone experience, had been received. Is it any wonder few were accepted?  Last week's operators were all from Chicago, Illinois or Madison, Wisconsin parts of the Bell System.  Today's article was the most  mentioned about Michigan women applying in 1918.

The women had a 60 year battle to be recognized as soldiers, but here's an article from the army's own "Stars and Stripes" about the arrival of the first unit.  Notice they are recognized here for being true Army and part of the Signal Corps.  (Also like "Bell Telephone News" issues, it focuses on fashion.)
Stars and Stripes, March 29, 1918

Here's that official Signal Corps photograph of the 33 newly arrived telephone soldiers.

1919 contains the wrap-up of what, all the women agreed, was a great adventure for young women.  For 1917, 18 and 19 Bell Telephone News also gave a great deal of coverage to male employees who joined the American Expeditionary Forces, as the U.S. Army was called in World War 1, whether working for the Signal Corps to maintain telephone service or as regular soldiers.  Please note reproduction quality is limited, but you may read free Google e-book versions of the Bell Telephone News as digitized from the University of Michigan Library. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Hello Girls - WWI/Women's History, part 1

I had expected finally to have lost this "boat anchor " of a cast on my wrist and hands.  Unfortunately I haven't fully healed!!!  Still I want to stay on schedule and even combining this with the chaos of a computer transition hasn't stopped me from working ahead.  I'm still getting my "workspace" in order.  This has meant a change in how I handle scans for the Keeping the Public in Public Domain.  I will get it worked out as I know it's popular with many readers, including military readers.  In the meantime I took some articles from my backup that all fit March being Women's History Month combined with the coming April start of the centennial celebration of the U.S. entry into World War I.  These articles have formed some of my research for my own "Hello Girls" program.  (Have done four so far with great response.)

Bell Telephone, the predecessor of AT&T, here in Michigan and Illinois produced a periodical, "Bell Telephone News", for their workers.  Each of these articles are part of a larger scan available online from Google Books.  Today's articles are in response to General Pershing's call for bilingual telephone operators.  It was a year after we entered the war.  The attempt to work with the existing French telephone service was impossible for the soldiers on the battlefield, complete with long delays and interrupted service.  Remember that until mid-20th century all calls had to go through phone operators.  Here in the U.S. we were able to have 14 phones for every 100 households, while in France it was only 1.5.  Signal Corps men were quite willing to run and maintain phone lines, but switchboard operation was "women's work."  If that sounds sexist, scanning the old issues is a different world since it was a time when the highest supervisory post available to women was training operators.
Bell Telephone News, vol 7, no 9,  April, 1918  p 237.
page 238
page 239

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Past Is Present Is Future

DRAT!  Did an Edit and forgot to click Publish again.  Have been going in too many directions at one time, this just tells about the storytelling ones.

Sometimes this newspaper masthead seems so appropriate.  Times Past, Present, and Future.
For the Times Past, lately I've been busy with both my two very real historical personas, Liberetta Lerich Green and Oleda Joure Christides.  Liberetta grew up on an Underground Railroad Station in nearby Shelby Township, she followed the progress of her brothers in Michigan's "Fighting Fifth" Infantry in the Civil War, and then raised her own family of six interesting children.  Oleda, from Marine City was a "Hello Girl", one of the bilingual phone operators in World War I.  In my "spare time" I've enjoyed being part of the musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which is set in 1895 with a Music Hall troupe and involves some improvisation with the audience, including letting them select murderer, detective, and final lovers.

The Times Present has been more aggravating.  Among the most difficult is my transitioning to a new personal computer and trying to retrieve all my backup.  I had to accept the lifespan of my old computer had either ended or deserved to go.  Now I'm trying to figure out how to get everything I had up and again running, hopefully without having to buy even more!

I'm also looking forward to removing the cast from my wrist and arm on March third.

The Times Future has incorporated all of this and even more.  Back on January 26 I did a Liberetta program for Oxford Public Library.  In the process, I was videotaped by Oxford Community Television and was favorably impressed.  In the meantime I did yet another videotaping with Shelby TV, while offering Liberetta's story at the Shelby Township Library.  This was arranged before I knew what would happen in Oxford.  My hope was to document and archive the history of this family for the township, especially the Shelby Township Historical Committee and the Lerich and Green descendants.  The support from the Historical Committee over the years has been the start of so much of my research, beginning with her own oral history, The Beacon Tree, which can be found on the Historical Committee's website.  As a result the Shelby program will be expanded beyond the library program.

Oxford Community Television, however, decided Women's History Month in March would welcome the story of the "Hello Girls" and Oleda.  I definitely agree.  These women fought for 60 years to gain finally recognition as veterans.  They were addressed as "soldier"; warned repeatedly of being subject to Court Martial; their mail, leave, and medical care all came from the military (although, unlike the soldiers also in the army, they were not given typhoid shots, so Hillsdale operator, Cora Bartlett is buried "Over There" because she died of typhoid); one of their switchboards was partially destroyed by German fire earning their supervisor, Grace Banker, the Distinguished Service medal and the operators with her certificates.  Yet when they returned they were denied veterans status.  It wasn't until the 1970s those few still alive received their honorable discharges and promised Victory Medals.
I look forward to offering the video OCTV taped this past week.  Next month is March, Women's History Month, and I plan to publish each week articles and photos from Bell Telephone News from the time before and after their service, showing the operators of Michigan and Illinois.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Storytelling no matter what happens!?!

The U.S.Postal Service"s unofficial creed used to be "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."  The motto is even inscribed on New York's James Farley Post Office, but it has no official status.  I live on a rural dirt road and have noticed a more realistic attitude has been used lately.  The mail still gets through, but sometimes is delayed.

Similarly scheduled programs sometimes need evaluation.  Weather can mean rescheduling or even cancellation.  Audience safety and comfort come first.  Similarly health of the storyteller is a factor.  Can the scheduled program be up to the expectations of the venue?  Years ago I canceled programs to face cancer treatments.  Looking back I believe it was the right decision as my energy level was a major factor.  If the venue had preferred to pursue the contracted program, however, I would still have done it.  Such decisions need to be made mutually.

As "Hello Girl", Oldea Joure Christides
I am currently tapping out this blog one-armed while my arm is in a bright shocking pink cast for a broken wrist.  With historical storytelling programs and a role in a musical also set in a historical time when my shocking pink cast doesn't match I wondered: What to do?  First various sleeves were checked.  YES! My arm can squeeze in -- the 1917 lace dress used in my program as Liberetta Lerich Green was tight, while my World War I uniform sleeves are roomy, and a white cutoff sock helps look like an old-time cast onstage for the musical.  Both types of historical storytelling programs were also able to use a sling for audiences close to the teller, concealing it.  Then comes the question of energy.  I'm a high-energy performer.  Could the programs still work?  Thankfully almost everything else in my life could be set aside.  Audiences have also said YES!

Here are photos from last Saturday in Bay City at the 84th State Conference of the Michigan Society Children of the American Revolution showing how it went.

This is MSCAR president, Madden Brady, who has made World War I and restoration of Bay City "Doughboy" statue his focus.

A few more members of the audience
Ovelia Taylor

It was a great opportunity to spread the word about this too often overlooked part of our history as we near the centennial of the U.S entering the war.  Adults there also agreed this is an important story in Women's History as these women battled for 60 years to gain recognition as veterans.  It was a pleasure to bring the program to them.

Now to survive The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- February 17 with additional shows on February 18, 19, 24, 25 & 26, 2017 at Central United Methodist Church. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m. Sundays at 4 p.m. 
Drood Ensemble ...note that wrist

and, while I'm battling feeling overwhelmed, I confess I just couldn't resist an excellent script, a director with whom I have wonderful past theatre experience, and fellow actors I value.

The story of this storyteller continues, fortunately March 3 the cast on my arm is scheduled for removal.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thorne-Thomsen - East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Facebook would call this a Status Update, but this week 2 storytelling programs and the start of a workshop series I sometimes lead + 2 rehearsals for the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood (opening next week!) coupled with the energy drain from my broken wrist in a cast = me feeling definitely say nothing of the way it slows me up!  I used to put this sign behind my nameplate when working as a librarian: Please Lord...Grant Me Patience, BUT HURRY!

That little sign is so ME.

In the meantime I need to adjust plans and today's post is that adjustment.  Not only did the influential storyteller, Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen, make today's story the title of her great littl book, but it's the title of 3 others in my library:

Normally I'd insert the illustrations from those, but only the Nielsen ones are in Public Domain and frankly it's more than I am up to at present.  I do recommend looking up these and even more versions of the story.  Today let's see why this story has caught the imagination of so many illustrators -- check Amazon using both "o'" and "of" for its title and you'll see what I mean.  If you don't look back at the earlier article on today's author/translator, Thorne-Thomsen, know that the story opens with an illustration by Frederick Richardson, whose colorful work appears throughout the book.

Can't you just picture that circle of stone trolls?!  My third book bearing this title doesn't name the translator, in fact the Kay Nielsen book doesn't say if he translated his either, but he was Danish, so it's probable.  What the third book, part of the Macmillan Classics series, offers beyond Tom Vroman's illustrations is an afterword by Clifton Fadiman who notes the way folktales travel, so that you may notice its similarity to other tales -- this one manages to put together several, doesn't it? -- yet the tale has a flavor all its own.  Fadiman points to that white bear and those trolls in talking about the stories collected by Asbjornsen and Moe and their Norwegian flavor.

 Thorne-Thomsen does an excellent job of making the story tellable.  About the only change for today's audiences would be her frequent use of the word "thither",  but then again that may be a bit of flavoring you may enjoy.  It's all rather like seasoning some cooking isn't it?
Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!