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Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.

WWI Telephone Operators "The Hello Girls"

In 1917, announcements appeared in major newspapers across America: the Army was looking for telephone operators to serve with the Signal Corps in France. The requirements were; applicants must be female, speak English and French fluently, be college educated, never married and in good physical condition. Over 7,000 women answered the call. After a rigorous selection process, 450 women were sworn in as Signal Corps telephone operators. Upon enlistment, they received training from AT & T operators at Bell System facilities.

Their next stop was Camp Franklin (soon to be annexed into Camp Meade). Here Army Signal Corps personnel put them through demanding military training. Half of the 450 women purchased their regulation uniform, complete with official "U.S." crests, Signal Corps crests, and "dogtags." On March 6, 1918, the first 33 left for France under the command of Grace Banker, an experienced AT & T operator. Many of these women served long hours close to the front. Some operators stayed on after the war to support the peace talks at Versailles.

What these switchboard operators proved was women as well as men could bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, and their unit long before American society at large realized they could. Although denied the right to vote and the full benefits of military service, these dedicated women put the welfare of the nation before their own.

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Photograph: Hello Girls
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