Women’s History Month: Grace Banker and the Hello Girls

Grace D Banker (1892-1960) was a telephone operator during World War 1.  She, along with several other women telephone operators, were known as the Hello Girls.  They traveled to Europe from NYC and operated the switch boards throughout the war front.

When she graduated college she went to work for American Telephone and Telegraph Company.  You might know that company as AT&T.  She was chosen to head up a team of operators working in Telephone Unit #1 for war duty in France. This was the first group of women serving as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, they were given the name Hello Girls.

Their objective was set forth by Gen John J Pershing who wished to improve the state of communications on the Western front.  Over 7,000 women applied for the mission, only 450 were accepted and trained at Ft Meade in Maryland.   The first wave of women left for Europe in March, 1918.  Once their work was completed and they returned to civilian life, they were not given honorable discharges as would be given to soldiers of the time.  This was even though they wore Army uniforms and were made to follow Army Regulations.  In 1978, on the 60th anniversary of the end of WWI, Congress approved Veteran Status and noted honorable discharges for the remaining Hello Girls.

If you would like to learn more about Grace Baker and the Hello Girls, below are some useful links:

The Hello Girls’ Chronicles The Women Who Fought For America — And For Recognition

The Hello Girls Broadway Play

Web Archive Hello Girls

A book on the subject: The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers

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