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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