During WWI General Pershing needed reliable efficient telephone operators in France. The men assigned to that task were too slow for communication needs at the front. Pershing decided to allow women to join the US armed forces for the first time. These women became part of the Army Signal Corps. In 1917, Grace Banker from New Jersey, Marie Moissec (a French vocalist) from France, and Belgian-born Valerie DeSmedt from Los Angeles became members of the Signal Corps. Those who joined the Signal Corps had to be fluent in French and English. (The nickname for these women were “hello girls” and they far outpaced their male military counterparts.) The women underwent rigorous training and were often stationed close to the front. In addition to the dangers of war, they also battled the Spanish flu pandemic.
After the war these women were not official recognized as military veterans until more than 60 years after their service. They were denied the benefits male veterans received until that time.
The character of Grace Banker is based on Grace D. Banker who was an AT&T switchboard instructor before being recruited. She served as Chief Operator of telephone for the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) and led thirty-three women telephone operators. She earned a Distinguished Service Medal for her work during WWI.
The author does a wonderful job of bringing a rarely emphasized part of American history to life. I learned a lot. ~Emma