Harvard University Press
In 1918 the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 women to France to help win World War I. Elizabeth Cobbs reveals the challenges these patriotic young women faced in a war zone where male soldiers resented, wooed, mocked, saluted, and ultimately celebrated them. Back on the home front, they fought the army for veterans’ benefits and medals, and won.
This is the story of how America’s first women soldiers helped win World War I, earned the vote, and fought the U.S. Army. In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 women to France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, demanded female “wire experts” when he discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with troops under fire. Without communications for even an hour, the army would collapse.
While suffragettes picketed the White House and President Woodrow Wilson struggled to persuade a segregationist Congress to give women of all races the vote, these competent and courageous young women swore the Army oath. Elizabeth Cobbs reveals the challenges they faced in a war zone where male soldiers welcomed, resented, wooed, mocked, saluted, and ultimately celebrated them. They received a baptism by fire when German troops pounded Paris with heavy artillery. Some followed “Black Jack” Pershing to battlefields where they served through shelling and bombardment. Grace Banker, their 25-year-old leader, won the Distinguished Service Medal.
The army discharged the last Hello Girls in 1920, the same year Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment granting the ballot. When the operators sailed home, the army unexpectedly dismissed them without veterans’ benefits. They began a sixty-year battle that a handful of survivors carried to triumph in 1979. With the help of the National Organization for Women, Senator Barry Goldwater, and a crusading Seattle attorney, they triumphed over the U.S. Army.Baker & Taylor
"In World War I, telephones linked commanding generals with soldiers in muddy trenches. A woman in uniform connected almost every one of their calls, speeding the orders that won the war. Like other soldiers, the "Hello Girls" swore the Army oath and stayed for the duration. A few were graduates of elite colleges. Most were ordinary, enterprising young women motivated by patriotism and adventure, eager to test their mettle and save the world. The first contingent arrived in France just as the German Armytrained "Big Bertha" on Paris, bombarding the frightened city as the new women of the U.S. Army struggled through unlit streets to find their billets. A handful followed General Pershing to the gates of Verdun and the battlefields of Meuse-Argonne. When the switchboard operators sailed home a year later, the Army dismissed them without veterans' benefits or victory medals. The women commenced a sixty-year fight that a handful of survivors carried to triumph in 1979. This book shows how technological developments encouraged an unusual band to volunteer for military service at the precise moment that feminists back home championed a federal suffrage amendment. The same desire to participate fully in the life of their country animated both groups, and both struggled after 1920 to reap the rewards of victory. Their experiences illuminate ways in which sex-role change was embraced and resisted throughout the twentieth century, and the ways that men and women struggled together for gender justice."--Provided by publisher.Book News
Cobbs traces the careers of the brave women of the US Army Signal Corps. She explains that women were in charge of communication during WWI, as they were the best qualified to run the switchboards generals depended on to communicate with troops. Coverage includes the varied reaction of the male soldiers, as well as the history of women's rights in America. While the women of the Signal Corps were fighting overseas, women on the homefront were fighting for the right to vote. Cobbs also discusses how the army did not offer benefits after the women's service was concluded, which took until 1979 to be rectified. Annotation ©2017 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)