It wasn’t until 2015 that the U.S. Army changed its policy on women serving in combat positions. Well before the, however, women were making important contributions to the army and aiding in various war efforts. Among the first women soldiers was a group of young Americans sent to France during World War I. To tell more about these heroic women and what they did for our country, Elizabeth Cobbs presents “The Women Soldiers of World War I,” the latest installment in the Great Lives lecture series at the University of Mary Washington. The lecture will take place Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dodd Auditorium of UMW.
Mark your calendars for this exciting event, and read on to find out more about what to expect at the lecture.
Women in WWI
The following appears on UMW’s website as a description of the first female soldiers of WWI, dubbed the “Hello Girls”:
In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent 223 young women to France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard. General John Pershing demanded female “wire experts” when he discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with troops under fire. Without communications for even an hour, the army would collapse.
While suffragettes picketed the White House and President Woodrow Wilson struggled to persuade a segregationist Congress to give women of all races the vote, these courageous soldiers swore the Army oath. Elizabeth Cobbs reveals the challenges they faced in a war zone where men welcomed, resented, wooed, mocked, saluted, and ultimately celebrated them. They received a baptism by fire when German troops pounded Paris with heavy artillery. Some followed “Black Jack” Pershing to battlefields where they served through shelling and bombardment. Grace Banker, their 25-year-old leader, won the Distinguished Service Medal.
The army discharged the last “Hello Girls” in 1920. When the last operators sailed home, the army unexpectedly dismissed them without veterans’ benefits, beginning a sixty-year battle. With the help of the National Organization for Women and Senator Barry Goldwater, America’s first women soldiers finally triumphed over the US Army in 1979.
About the Speaker
It makes sense that the university invited Elizabeth Cobbs to speak on the topic. She is, after all, author of a book on the Hello Girls. Additionally, she is the recipient of four literary prizes and has written for publications such as the New York Times and Reuters. Don’t miss this exciting chance to hear more about these WWI heroes, straight from the expert herself.
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