Efforts Renewed for Congressional Gold Medal to Honor World War I ‘Hello Girls’

Published: 10 June 2022

By Judy Christie
via the Military Officers Association of America web site 

Army photo of Hello Girls.


More than 40 senators have co-sponsored a bill that would award the "Hello Girls" a Congressional Gold Medal. (Army photo)

A proposed Congressional Gold Medal to honor the “Hello Girls,” the pioneering World War I Army Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit, is receiving renewed bipartisan attention in the House and Senate.

The medal push is the latest in a long effort to recognize the Hello Girls, who provided critical communications as switchboard operators from WWI front lines, connecting 26 million calls.

The unit originated when Gen. John J. Pershing, USA, discovered early in the war that French women serving as switchboard operators spoke little or no English, making communications between American headquarters almost impossible. The War Department selected 223 American women who spoke French and had telecommunications experience to serve overseas, and this unit became known as the Hello Girls.

Although they were hailed as heroes for their service, they were denied benefits when they returned home and waged a 60-year battle before winning recognition as veterans. An earlier Congressional Gold Medal effort stalled, but the bill was reintroduced in 2021 and is moving through Congress with support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor of appreciation awarded by Congress, and the bill must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of the members of both chambers. As of June 10, the bill had 22 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 43 in the Senate. The bill’s passage is advocated by the World War I Centennial Commission.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) — whose district houses the National World War I Museum and Memorial, built in 1926 and the only national museum to commemorate WWI — is working to pass the law.

“For far too long, the Hello Girls have failed to receive the recognition and honors they earned from their dedicated service to the nation at a time of grave need,” he said. “In an era when women couldn’t even participate in our democracy, these women swore oaths, put on the uniform and served alongside our servicemen during World War I, helping to send critical communications that were instrumental in the coordination of French and American forces that, ultimately, helped win the Great War.”

The story of the Hello Girls really hit home, Cleaver said.

Read the entire article on the MOAA web site here:


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