Friday, December 15, 2023

Female Switchboard Operators Trained in 19C Recruited to Serve in World War I

1918 Back our girls over there United War Work Campaign
 by Clarence F. Underwood, (Painter, Illustrator, 1871-1929)

 After the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, General John Pershing discovered that military communications on the Western Front were in disarray. In response, he called for women to join the U.S. Army Signal Corps & become "switchboard soldiers." At the time, author Elizabeth Cobbs observed, “telephones were the only military technology in which the United States enjoyed clear superiority" & 80 percent of all telephone operators were women. More than 7,600 women applied for the first 100 positions before applications for the newly formed Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit were even printed. 

From the thousands of American women who applied to be "Hello Girls," as they became known colloquially -- all of whom had to be bilingual in English & French -- only 223 were ultimately accepted into the unit. The women of the Signal Corps soon took over the critical role of connecting military telephones across the front, allowing the front lines to communicate quickly with commanders; at the height of the war, they were connecting 150,000 calls a day.

Most of the women accepted into the Signal Corps were already experienced switchboard operators &, after completing Army training in Maryland, the first operators left for Europe in 1918 under the lead of Chief Operator Grace Banker, a Barnard College graduate who worked as a switchboards instructor. Soon, members of the unit were operating the switchboards for the American Expeditionary Forces in Paris & 75 other French locations as well as multiple locations in Britain. By July, the Hello Girls had tripled the number of calls that could be managed by the Army telephone service in France, vastly improving war-front communications.

When Banker arrived with the first team of 33 telephone operators, they were assigned to the American Expeditionary Force Headquarters in Chaumont, France. Later, as the final major Allied offenses of the war approached, Banker was asked to move to the front, along with her five best operators. During the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, equipped with gas masks & helmets, they operated from the trenches under artillery bombing. Banker was later honored with the U.S. Army's Distinguished Service Medal for her services with the First Army headquarters during the St. Mihiel & Meuse-Argonne Offensives. Following the Armistice, Banker continued to work with the Army of Occupation at Coblenz, Germany until she returned home in September 1919.

Shortly after the Armistice, the chief signal officer for the First Army wrote in his final report that "a large part of the success of the communications of this Army is due to... a competent staff of women operators." The women of the Army Signal Corps swore the Army oath, wore regulation uniforms, observed military protocol, & served courageously under often harrowing conditions, yet after the war, the women discovered that U.S. government considered them "civilian" employees. By denying them veteran status, the women who had served were denied veterans benefits, medical care, honorable discharges, military funerals, & even the right to wear their uniforms.

At least 24 bills were introduced to the U.S. Congress over the course of 50 years to have the signal operators' military service officially recognized. It wasn't until 1977, when only eighteen of the original Hello Girls were still alive, that a campaign led by former operator Merle Egan Anderson finally resulted in a bill successfully passing & being signed by President Carter that officially recognizing the veterans' status of the Signal Corps telephone operators. Egan herself finally received her official discharge paper in a ceremony in Washington in 1979 when she was 91 years old.


A Mighty Girl Blog November 28, 2023

Library of Congress Blogs 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Thursday, February 16, 2023

19C American Woman

Margaret Eyer Johnson (Mrs Samuel Johnson) 1805-1902 PA

Monday, February 6, 2023

19C American Woman

Lydia Berstler (Mrs Abel Griffith) 1800-1868 Iowa County, Iowa but photo taken in Philadelphia, PA

Monday, January 23, 2023

The 18C Forefathers Look at the Future of Slavery in the 19C USA

 The Forefathers Look at the Future of Slavery in the new USA (1783-1787)

 A.C. McLaughlin tells us that during the early days of the Revolution, when it was often uncertain whether independence could be maintained; when British armies were occupying much of American territory; when Washington had not the troops, food, or the equipment to beat the enemy back; there was much discussion concerning the ownership of the land beyond the mountains. Between the states themselves this was a topic for prolonged dispute.

The parties to this internal controversy were on the one hand Congress, on the other hand, the 7 states — New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, & Georgia — which laid claim to parts of this western country. The other 6 states asserted either that Congress already had rightful authority or that Congress should be given it for the public good. 

Fearing the strength & influence of the states which claimed the vast territory beyond the mountains, Maryland at an early day proposed that Congress should have the right to "fix the western boundary of such states as claim to the Mississippi or south sea; & lay out the land beyond the boundary so ascertained into separate & independent states from time to time as the numbers & circumstances of the people thereof may require." 

Maryland refused to agree to the Articles of Confederation so long as other states asserted their claims to the wide region beyond the mountains. Congress passed a resolution declaring that the lands ceded or relinquished to the United States by any state should be disposed of for the common benefit of the all of the United States & be settled & formed into distinct republican states which should become "members of the federal union, & have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom, & independence, as the other states."

The Confederation was to have title to an imperial domain beyond the mountains. The principle had won acceptance that the settlers in the west should not be held permanently in colonial subjection to the mother-states of the seaboard, but should be formed into self-governing commonwealths.

With the exception of the Western Reserve, Congress had, therefore, by 1786, full title to all the land north of the Ohio. South of the Ohio the seaboard states, basing their claims on their old charters, still asserted ownership westward as far as the Mississippi. 

Congress now claimed ownership of many millions of acres, & this ownership constituted a common interest. It remained for Congress to work out a plan of settlement & to carry out the principles which it had already announced.

Action was taken in March 1784, when by Virginia's cession Congress held unquestioned title to a large portion of the lands north of the Ohio. An ordinance proposed by Jefferson was brought before Congress: the western lands "ceded or to be ceded" were by this plan to be divided into 14 states.

By this plan the settlers were not immediately to form a state & enter the Union, they were, "either on their own petition or on the order of Congress," to meet together for the purpose of establishing "a temporary government," & when any state had 20,000 free inhabitants it was to receive from Congress authority to establish a permanent constitution & government. 

Not until a state should have as many free inhabitants as should be at the time contained in "the least numerous of the 13 original States" was it to have the right to be admitted into the Union. Thus by the spring of 1784, there were two essential ideas of the American colonial system: temporary government with a large measure of self-government for the colony; & the ultimate admission of the colony into the Union on terms of equality with the older members.

In Jefferson's plan, as first introduced, it was declared that in all this western country "after the year 1800 of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty." The restriction was evidently intended to cover not only the territory north of the Ohio but the territory south as well.

The southern states, however, from whose older portions people were already moving into the interior beyond the mountains, were not ready to dedicate the west to freedom. When the Ordinance was under discussion a delegate from North Carolina moved to strike out the antislavery clause. 

The Ordinance was passed April 23, 1784. It never went into effect, but it it is significant as one of the early attempts to organize the west, & perhaps still more because of the effort to exclude slavery.

The Ohio Company made up of New England men, was formed in Boston, on March 3, 1786. Its directors were General Rufus Putnam, who had served in the Revolution, General Samuel H. Parsons, also a Revolutionary officer, & lastly Manasseh Cutler, a doctor of divinity, who, with a penchant for botany & a love for natural philosophy, had also an aptitude for business. The New Englanders were already moving into the "northern frozen deserts," Cutler said, & to turn their faces to the new west it was necessary only to tell them of the temperate climate & fertile land of the Ohio country.

The most famous, though possibly not the most important clause of the Ordinance, was one excluding slavery: "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." Provision was made, however, for the reclamation & return of any person escaping into the territory from whom labor or service was "lawfully claimed in any one of the original states."

The Ordinance prevented the introduction of slavery in the early years when settlers were moving into the region, it assured the development of the northwestern states free from the slavery debate, & it stated a principle & established a precedent. There was value, too, in proclaiming the fundamental principles of civil liberty & sound maxims concerning education & religion. By the passage of the Ordinance, Congress fulfilled its earlier promise, that, if the western lands were ceded, free republican states would be formed.

Source: The American Nation: A History v. 10. The Confederation & the Constitution, 1783-1789, by A.C. McLaughlin, available at the Internet Archives.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

American Gardens & Parks for Everyone

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Portrait of Fredrick Law Olmstead.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Resting the Horses

Edward Lamson Henry (American Painter, 1841-1919) Horse and Buggy
Edward Lamson Henry (1841–1919) was an American genre painter born in Charleston, South Carolina who came to live in New York at an early age. As a painter of early American life, he displays a quaint humour. Henry acquired an extensive collection of antiques, old photos, & assorted Americana, from which he researched his paintings. His wife Frances said that "Nothing annoyed him more than to see a wheel, a bit of architecture etc. carelessly drawn or out of keeping with the time it was supposed to portray.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Our Grandchildren's Chickens

.Winslow Homer (American artist, 1836-1910) Fresh Eggs
Just in time for the holidays, our grandchildren's 11 chickens are finally all producing an egg each daily. While the chicks are searching for new places to hide their productions each day, we are all scrambling to find new egg recipes.

Thomas Waterman Wood (American artist, 1823–1903) Fresh Eggs
Thomas Waterman Wood (American artist, 1823–1903) Not an Egg.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

19C American Soda Fountains, Phopsphates, & Drinks They Served

Eating ice cream soda, 1906 Sun, Aug 12, 1906 – Page 24 · Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, Nebraska) What were soda fountains? The simplest answer is that a soda fountain was an apparatus that dispensed carbonated water (known as “soda water” in the United States). But the term eventually expanded to also mean the area inside a business (often a counter) where a person could order a fountain drink.
The soda fountain machine was invented in Europe in the late 1700s, & by the early 1800s soda water had become a trend in the United States, with sellers adding fruits & syrups for flavor. But the late 19C saw increased customer demand for fancier drinks beyond flavored soda water.
Soda fountains were frequently found at pharmacies but were also located inside department stores, bakeries, ice cream parlors, restaurants, & more. The employees who worked behind the counters were known as “soda fountain clerks” or “soda water jerkers” (and later “soda jerks”).
From their 18C origins, soda fountains remained popular in the United States through the 1950s, when drive-ins & car culture led to their decline.
“Phosphates,” also known as “phosphate sodas,” were made by mixing acid phosphate (phosphoric acid & mineral salts) with soda water & flavoring. The acid phosphate gave the drink a tart or sour taste.  Phosphate sodas came in a wide variety of flavors, but lemon phosphates, cherry phosphates, & egg phosphates were a few of the most common. Fruit flavors make sense given the tartness of phosphates, but egg?
Egg phosphates & other egg-based drinks were actually quite popular at 19C soda fountains. Egg phosphates were made of raw egg, soda water, phosphate, & orange, lemon, or chocolate syrup. Other common egg drinks a person could order included eggnog, egg flip, egg lemonade, & more.
 A milkshake’s name was originally much more literal—a beverage made of milk shaken together with crushed or shaved ice, flavoring, & sometimes raw egg. Eventually, ice cream began making its way into the milkshake, creating the dessert we’re familiar with today. But as this ad from 1930 shows, some businesses still saw the need to specify that their milkshakes included ice cream well into the 20th century.
While milkshakes had their moment of popularity, they were overshadowed by what was arguably the most popular offering at a 19C soda fountain: ice cream soda (now often called an ice cream float).
While a version of ice cream soda existed before the Civil War, that older version was made of flavored soda water mixed with cream & ice. The new ice cream soda—likely created in the 1870s—replaced the cream & ice with ice cream. The drink quickly gained popularity & spread around the country, & by the 1890s no soda fountain’s menu was complete without it.
The soda fountain’s beverage options didn’t stop with phosphates, milkshakes, & ice cream sodas.
The plethora of soda fountains in any given city meant businesses competed for customers by offering an ever-growing menu of drinks—with upward of 50 (sometimes 100) options at the larger fountains. Some of the beverages (like the Moxie & Coca-Cola mentioned in a 1896 Nebraska ad) were commercially manufactured name-brand drinks. But many soda fountain offerings were invented & made in-house. 
Since many beverages offered at soda fountains were served cold, it’s no surprise that soda fountains typically did their best business in the summer. But they attracted customers in colder months too with offerings like “hot soda water,” & beef tea, plus coffee, & hot chocolate, which were popular drinks in 18C America.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Another Lady Reading

"Child Hassam (1859-1935). Portrait of Edith Blaney, Pastel on paper, 1894. This portrait shows Mrs. Blaney at rest with the island garden behind her. The book in her hand, charmingly, is Celia Thaxter's An Island Garden, about Thaxter's own garden on Appledore, illustrated by Hassam, and published that same year."

I was re-reading The Down East Dilettante just now & found this wonderful pastel from his posting on Sunday. Another lady resting in the shade of the garden & reading a book. One of my favorite blogs about architecture, design, landscape, arts, antiques, & other passing fancies from Maine, New England, & Points Yonder. Can't recommend it enough.


Thursday, November 17, 2022

A Women & Her Garden in Maine

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935). Poppies on the Isles of Shoals.

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935). In the Garden (Celia Thaxter in Her Garden.)

Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935). Celia Thaxter's Garden, Isles of Shoals, Maine.

For Carol & Brad.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Girls of Summer by James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903)

James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Symphonie in White No 2 1864

James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Tanagra 1867-70
James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Symphony in White no 1 1862

James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Harmony in Pink and Grey Valerie, Lady Meux 1881
James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland 1871-73
James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Harmony in Grey and Green Miss Cicely Alexander 1873
James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Symphony in White No 3 1866

James Mc Neill Whistler (1834-1903). Resting In Bed 1884

Friday, November 11, 2022

John Singer Sargent's (1856-1925) Lazy Summer Days

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Reclining Figure

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Zuleika Reclining

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Woman Reclining

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Two Girls in White Dresses
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). The Chess Game.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

American John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925) in European Gardens

John Singer Sargent was not actually brought up in America. Sargent was born in Florence, Italy, and spent his childhood & adolescence touring Europe with his American parents who had decided on a nomadic lifestyle abroad in pursuit of culture rather than a more secure existence back home.

John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Villa di Marllia Lucca
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Villa di Marlia Fountain
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925)The Garden Wall
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Villa Torlonia Frascati.
John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). Garden in Corfu 1