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Topics in Chronicling America - Hello Girls

Coined as the ‘Hello Girls’ as early as the late 19th century, female switchboard operators were widely known as having gentle and polite voices regardless of demanding and impatient callers. During WWI, General Pershing enlisted French-speaking ‘Hello Girls’ to improve wartime communication, relaying messages about troop movements and supplies. The ‘Hello Girls’ not only proved to be an integral part in telecommunications at home, but they also played a vital role in military operations. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.


Telephone operators at work.

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • 1898-1918 Newspaper articles attempt to clear up misconceptions about ‘Hello Girls’ in order for patrons to reflect on having more patience and reasonable dealings.
  • April 1903 ‘Hello Girl’ Myrtle Dedrick marries millionaire Charles Featherstone after long distance exchanges.
  • August 28, 1907 Newspapers praise the ‘Hello Girls’ during their strikes across the country, supporting their demands for fair treatment and higher wages.
  • October 11, 1909 Chief Operator Ida Potter correctly predicts an earthquake in Columbia, MO as operators answer bogus calls.
  • May 20, 1910 Labor Commissioner Neill writes a lengthy report detailing the physical and emotional requirements of ‘Hello Girls,’ as well as the conditions in which they work.
  • July 12, 1916 “Secrecy of the Telephone Service” report includes how operators have had to ‘mind the baby” over the telephone.
  • November 1, 1917 5,000 ‘Hello Girls’ strike in Tacoma, WA, demanding a wage increase, collective bargaining, and improved working conditions.
  • March 9, 1918 Ethel Elkins is the first American accepted for overseas war phone service duty in WWI with the rank of Army nurse.
  • September 29, 1918 The NY Sun publishes a full page feature covering the wartime ‘Hello Girls.’
  • May 4, 1922 General Pershing states, “Every man over there wanted to feel some woman was looking after him,” in describing the value of the ‘Hello Girls’ four years after the war.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Hello Girls, Pershing, switchboard, operator, telephone, telegrapher, strike.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  January 29, 2015
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