Rep. Cleaver Re-Introduces Bipartisan Bill Awarding Congressional Gold Medal to the “Hello Girls” of World War I
Special to the Doughboy Foundation web site
U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) announced the introduction of H.R. 4949, a bipartisan bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress—to over 220 American women who served as telephone operators with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I. The “Hello Girls” were the first female soldiers to be deployed to a combat zone and were instrumental in the war effort in France throughout WWI. Their efforts to connect American and French forces on the front lines of battle by helping to translate and communicate command orders were an integral component to the eventual victory for the Allied Powers.
“I am once again proud to introduce this legislation to award the Hello Girls the Congressional Gold Medal—an honor that is long overdue and certainly fitting for these American heroes,” said Congressman Cleaver.
“During a period when the women of our nation weren’t afforded the right to vote, these patriots dropped everything to support our country in its time of need. Not only did they answer the call to service, but they also demonstrated the work ethic, proficiency, and selflessness needed to help the Allied Powers win the Great War. The pivotal role of the “Hello Girls” cannot be overlooked, which is why I am asking Congress to recognize their service with the highest honor awarded by this distinguished body.”
“In World War I, 223 heroic young women answered the call of General Pershing for volunteers. The “Hello Girls” as they were known had to be skilled, professional switchboard operators proficient in both French and English. These patriots dropped everything and shipped out to Europe and the frontlines where they quickly and accurately handled the millions of military communications that helped win the war.
"The “Hello Girls” were the first female soldiers deployed to a combat zone. They risked everything for their country, and many stayed behind to help complete demobilization before returning home where they were often overlooked. Clearly, the Centennial is the time that we remember their patriotism and sacrifice."
"The World War I Centennial Commission, created by Congress to make recommendations to Congress and the President, recommends the award of a Congressional Gold Medal to honor the service of the 'Hello Girls,'" said Terry Hamby, Chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission.
Formally known as the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators, the Hello Girls as they were nicknamed were recruited by General John J. Pershing in 1917 as the first group of women to hold non-medical positions in the U.S. Army. As telecommunication in battle was still relatively new at the time, General Pershing was looking for experienced individuals that could improve communication on the front lines.
With the telephone operator field dominated by women, General Pershing made the decision to form the specialized unit comprised solely of women. It was required that the women be bilingual in both French and English so that they could effectively communicate and coordinate with French and American forces.
By the end of the war, the Hello Girls had connected over 26 million calls in support of the war effort, and even continued to serve in Europe to organize the return of American forces following the armistice.
passing legislation establishing the WWI Centennial Commission (WWICC) in 2012, securing funding for the commission on multiple occasions, passing legislation to award the Medal of Honor to minority servicemembers, passing legislation to designate the Liberty Memorial of Kansas City as the National World War I Museum and Memorial and creating the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., and passing legislation to mint a World War I American Veterans Centennial Commemorative Coin.Congressman Cleaver has been an ardent supporter of honoring veterans of WWI,
The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Joe Courtney (D-CT), and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in the Senate and is cosponsored by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Scott (R-SC), Angus King (I-ME), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM).
The full text of H.R. 4949 is available here.
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