World War I
When the United States entered the European War
on April 6, 1917, it marked the first time in the history of the
country that regular Army and Navy military nurses served overseasalthough
without rankand the first time, women who were not nurses
were allowed to enlist in the Navy and Marine Corps. (The US Army
refused to enlist women officially, but relied on them as civilian
volunteers and two women were permitted in the Coast Guard.)
||Salvation Army volunteers
near the front lines in Europe.
Negative public opinion and hesitant military
leaders limited women's roles, but the country needed their skills
to pursue the war effort and to move male soldiers out of office
jobs and onto the battlefield.
By war's end, American military women had served
stateside and overseas on the eastern and western war fronts. Over
230 bilingual civilian telephone operators organized and trained
by AT&T took the same oath of allegiance as male soldiers. Dubbed
the "Hello Girls," they maintained communications in 75
French localities, sometimes working under combat conditions.
And from the outset of World War I, long before
American troops arrived on foreign soil, American women were over
there volunteering with civilian organizations to provide
nursing, transportation and other war relief services. Women aligned
themselves with humanitarian organizations such as the American
Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army and others to meet wartime needs.
World War I marked a new era in women's movement
from the home and into the public sphere. Their call to service
by the military establishment was hesitant, limited and unequal
in treatment and benefits. Yet they went to war anyway. As the peace
process unfolded and they were removed from wartime work, many remained
in the public realm taking on new roles in the workplace and seeking
higher education. Others resumed traditional places in the home.
But when the call came for service in World
War II, women's successful participation in World War I was an important
precedent for expanding roles of American women in the military
and for developing the military establishment's acceptance of women's
service in the US Armed Forces.
a recruitment campaign in New York City in 1918.
||A YMCA volunteer who worked
in Paris, France during World War I.