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Friday, March 1, 2024

The Hello Girls deserve a Congressional Gold Medal

LoiS at Iosco County Historical Museum

I don't normally completely publish an entire article from another source, but today's article from the February WWI  Dispatch not only focuses on the Hello Girls, but what we can do for recognition of their service in World War I.  The Doughboy Foundation spotlights that "War to end all wars", which is too easily forgotten after World War II.  They rightly say it was "The War That Changed the World."  

Starting this month I return to telling the story of Oleda Joure Christides from Marysville, Michigan.  Her family graciously helped me as I put together her story and those of the other bi-lingual phone operators who were America's first women soldiers.  Michigan also had one of two "Hello Girl" deaths.  It took slightly over 60 years for them finally to gain their veterans status as the Army tried to claim they were contractors.

Their descendants are rightfully calling for a Congressional Gold Medal for these brave women.  The article below from the February WW1 Dispatch gives much more detailed information below.  

Dennis SkupinskiOther information in the newsletter includes the death of  Dennis Skupinski, the Michigan State Commission Chair WWI and amateur historian.

Dennis helped me personally as one of his many ways as Commission Chair (and as dedicated "amateur historian") he was recognized as "ceaselessly promoting the Michigan and Michiganders contributions to the Great War."  I am honored to continue the focus on this work that meant so much to him and Oleda.

 Before I give the Dispatch article, I also want to recommend a well-researched work of fiction about the first "Switchboard Soldiers", including Grace Banker, their Chief Operator.  Her diary was one of many sources New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini used in creating her well-written novel, Switchboard Soldiers.  My view of Hello Girl preparation and life is from the sixth of seven units sent abroad.  Chiaverini's book looks instead to the start of their work and, by including Banker as one of her three characters, the very top organizational view.  These women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps "broke down gender barriers in the military and battled a pandemic as they helped lead the Allies to victory."

Now my call to action:

Women’s History Month: Ideal Time To Ask Your Senators and Representative To Support Congressional Gold Medal For The Hello Girls

Hello Girls pop-up image

Women's History Month starts on Friday, March 1, a month dedicated to "commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history." This makes it the ideal time for all Americans to reach out to their two Senators and Representative to request their immediate support for current legislation in each House to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Army Signal Corps telephone operators of World War I, known as the "Hello Girls." America's First Women Soldiers earned this honor through their outstanding service in World War I

Women's History Month at Women's Military Memorial vertical

The Hello Girls will be at the top of the agenda on Sunday, March 3 at the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington, VA, as they kick off “March With Me” – a celebration of Women’s History Month at the only memorial to tell the stories of all women who have served our nation. The award-winning  Hello Girls documentary will be screened in the memorial's Vaught Center at 1:00 pm Sunday (get there early!). Filmmaker James Theres will be on hand to discuss the movie after the showing, and to talk about the essential role that the Hello Girls played in bringing the fighting to a close in World War I.. Joining him will be several descendants and family members of Hello Girls, who will share their knowledge and memories of their family heroines, and take questions from the audience. If you are anywhere in the National Capital Region, request your tickets now to attend this event, which also features “Honoring Her Voice,” a special musical performance by The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” chamber players, and an Open House at the Memorial.. 

Four of the descendants and family members of Hello Girls have joined forces to pen an eloquent editorial about why America's First Women Soldiers deserve the recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal. The short answer is that it's "A distinction they have earned," but the four authors go into excellent detail on how the "adventurous, even intrepid pioneers of their time" answered their nation's call in 1918.The women of the Hello Girls risked their lives in service, and two died in France. Click here to read the entire editorial, which is seeking placement in publications across the nation to support the Congressional Gold Medal legislation

Hello girls at switchboard

You can join these family members in advocating for passage of the Hello Girls Congressional Gold Medal legislation in 2024, and do it right from your computer! Click here for our toolbox that makes the process of reaching out to your Representative and Senators very straightforward. You can also reach out by phone to the local and district offices of your Senators and Representative, and tell them that you want them to answer the call, and cosponsor the Hello Girls Congressional Gold Medal legislation in the 118th Congress.

Hello Girls with helmet

The Hello Girls made critical battlefield tactical communications work effectively for U.S. and French military forces on the front lines of World War I, saving the lives of many American by helping bring the long war to a quicker end. However, when the Hello Girls returned home after WWI ended, they were denied veterans status and benefits until 1977. The Hello Girls earned and deserve the recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal, and the World War I Centennial Commission asks you to helpmake that happen in the 118th Congress!

When their nation called in 1918, the Hello Girls answered -- will YOU answer their call for recognition in 2024?

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