Overdue Honor Proposed for WWI ‘Hello Girls’
In World War I, the U.S. Army Signal Corps needed help with communication between American and French forces. The Hello Girls were recruited to military headquarters and command posts to help with the language differences. They were bilingual in English and French and connected over 26 million calls for the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. However, they were denied veteran status and benefits after the war. Not until 1977, after repeated attempts, they were given veteran status, even though they were enlisted and took the oath as the first women soldiers in the U.S. Army.
This week, Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee introduced a bipartisan bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the women telephone operators of WWI. The Hello Girls Congressional Gold Medal Act would honor their service and Senator Tester said, "as well as their fight for recognition." The National Archives lists the names of the 225 Signal Corps women, including Mary Vannier and Merle Egan of Helena, and Celia Grimeke of Butte.