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Telephone Operators Welcomed to Paris - 1918

American Telephone Girls Photographed on Arrival for "hello" Duty in France, March 1918.

American Telephone Girls Photographed on Arrival for "hello" Duty in France, March 1918. They All Can Speak Both English and French. Photograph by Q.M. Sgt. Leon H. Caverly, U.S.R. Censored and Released 28 April 1918 by War College Division. National Archives and Records Administration, 111-SC-8445. NARA ID # 55177410. GGA Image ID # 199d9d7646

Paris, June 10.—When the first group of American women telephone operators arrived in this city in March they found awaiting them comfortable living quarters which had been made ready for them.

“The YWCA accepted gladly the responsibility offered it by the army" says Miss Mary George White. “Before the girls arrived the Signal Corps officer in charge of the first group came with a request for help.

The YWCA, recognizing that these arrivals might be the forerunner of an American organization similar to the British W. A. A. C., gladly undertook the task.

“It was easy for the telephone operators assigned to Paris to live at the Hotel Petrograd, our Hostess House there. Those assigned to the interior could be looked out for by secretaries in certain other places.

"Workers were fortunately already at the first town chosen south of Paris. For the fairly large group, however, who were assigned to general headquarters, some provision had to be made. As I was the only secretary with a permit enabling me to travel freely in the army zone, I was assigned to that task.

"The town where the general headquarters is situated is, of course, very much crowded, but we were fortunate enough to obtain a house which had been rented and fitted out as a clubhouse by a group of officers just before they were transferred to another post.

"The house had been furnished very modestly for the most part, considering the wealth and rank of the reserve officers who had planned to use it, and we could take over the furniture almost without exception.

"The men had added such things as extra bathrooms and a central heating plant to mitigate the horrors of army life in France. We were delighted to fall heir to these luxuries.

"Sufficient equipment was added to make it possible for three or four persons instead of one to occupy each of the large rooms. Behold! We had a house ready to accommodate thirty persons.

“Miss Julia Russel was assigned as 'hostess' to the house, rather than 'matron,' the term at first suggested by the army men, but quickly abandoned when we suggested the other. Miss Russel was installed in the house, with an excellent French woman in charge of the housekeeping. On my last visit the telephone girls were already feeling themselves part of a very real and happy family. As I write this report I am just preparing to go up to general headquarters to attend their first reception to the officers of the post.

"[Exhibit AA (Part 2)]: Affidavit of Gertrude Hoppock: "Telephone Operators Welcomed to Paris," in Philadelphia Public Ledger, 7 June 1918, and The Pacific Telephone Magazine, June 10, 1918" in Recognition for Purposes of VA Benefits, Hearing before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Unted States Senate, Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session on S. 247, S. 1414, S. 129, and Related Bills. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 25 May 1977. pp. 379-.

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The GG Archives is the work and passion of two people, Paul Gjenvick, a professional archivist, and Evelyne Gjenvick, a curator. Paul earned a Masters of Archival Studies - a terminal degree from Clayton State University in Georgia, where he studied under renowned archivist Richard Pearce-Moses. Our research into the RMS Laconia and SS Bergensfjord, the ships that brought two members of the Gjønvik family from Norway to the United States in the early 20th century, has helped us design our site for other genealogists. The extent of original materials at the GG Archives can be very beneficial when researching your family's migration from Europe.