The Senate Resolution states that “For their role as pioneers who paved the way for all women in uniform, and for service that was essential to victory in World War I, the “Hello Girls” merit” the recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal. This language is mirrored in H.R.1572 – Hello Girls Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2023, the identical legislation in the House of Representatives. Information on how to support this legislation in both houses can be found here.
Carolyn Timbe, granddaughter of Hello Girls Chief Operator Grace Banker, was one of those who visited Senate office during the Call on the Hill effort. “What a thrill it was to spend two days at the Senate buildings with a small, dedicated team of us, visiting Senate offices and relaying the importance for the senators to co-sponsor the Hello Girls Congressional Gold Medal Act,” Carolyn said. “We shared our stories, photos and artifacts. We were accompanied by two uniformed Doughboys and a uniformed Hello Girl (provided by the Doughboy Foundation) as we made our way through the building.
Carolyn Timbe, granddaughter of Hello Girls Chief Operator Grace Banker, holds the WWI military ID tags of her grandmother.
“Once we introduced the story, we had everyone’s attention. The Hello Girls served bravely, selflessly and made a huge impact on the success of WWI, only to be overlooked upon their return to the states. It took 60 long years for them to be recognized as veterans. Most did not live to see this day, including my grandmother Grace Banker, Chief Operator of the 1st Unit.
“The Hello Girls of WWI no longer have a voice but we will speak out to make sure their story lives on! They deserve to be recognized for their place in history as America’s First Women Soldiers!”
Catherine Bourgin, granddaughter of Marie Edmee LeRoux, an Operator with Hello Girls Unit 4, also participated in the Call on the Hill. “I marvel at the fact that five months ago I met Carolyn, who is the granddaughter of Grace Banker, and 106 years after our grandmothers went off to war in France as bilingual telephone operators in the U.S. Army Signal Corps with the AEF,” said Catherine.
“For two days during the first snowy week of January 2024, Carolyn and I walked just over seven miles in the hallways of three different Senate office buildings as part of the WWI Centennial Commission’s campaign for the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of our grandmothers and for all the women of the WWI U.S. Army Signal Corps women, AKA The Hello Girls.
“Our group was graciously received for scheduled meetings or walk-in awareness visits. I loved watching the unsuspecting listener become enraptured by their story and accomplishments as America’s first Women soldiers. This slice of U.S. history with all the complexities of politics and societies norms forced into a world war is worth keeping alive and telling. It shows how the Hello Girls accomplishments during wartime influenced the progress and change in American society for generations to come.
“The Hello Girls were the first of the first. General Pershing saluted them and the Doughboys cheered for them,” said Catherine. “It’s been a very uplifting and positive experience to participate in this campaign and an honor to share my grandmother’s story on Capitol Hill. Going for Gold, not in the Paris ’24 Olympics, but on Capitol Hill!”