The Women of World War I

Doughnut Dollies, Hello Girls, Blue Star Moms, and Girl Scouts

The story of Sgt. Stubby is the story of a man, a dog, and a nation finding an identity in the world. Part of that identity would involve a new view of women in American society.

Our film is told through the voice of Robert Conroy’s sister, Margaret (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter), to reflect the importance of women as the engine that kept America running during our military’s first global deployment. Beyond the 23,000+ women who enlisted as nurses, the civilian population was drawn into the conflict in previously unimagined ways.

Storefronts became recruitment depots, flower beds became victory gardens, and knitting needles furiously churned out scarves and socks to send overseas. American mothers had to say goodbye to their sons for the first time going abroad; in many cases, it was the last time they would spend together.

Other women protested the war, arguing that the U.S. had no place interfering in European politics when there were serious issues at home yet to be addressed…namely, the cause of women’s suffrage and voting rights. Though World War I didn’t directly fix all of the gender equality gaps in the U.S., the rise of females in the workplace and direct involvement in the federal government contributed to the ratification of the 19th Amendment after over 40 years of the women’s suffrage movement.

Still others volunteered to deploy alongside the American Expeditionary Force to the front lines. Though not directly in combat, the women of the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Girl Scouts of America, and Signal Corps Field Telephone Operators Unit were a vital – and mostly unrecognized – part of the war effort.

Here’s a partial list of some of the women’s groups that impacted the U.S. war effort during World War I.

DOUGHNUT DOLLIES

The name actually refers to the Red Cross during Vietnam, but the concept begins in 1918 with the Salvation Army.

HELLO GIRLS

A military commander can only exercise control over the battlefield if he/she has efficient communication networks in place. So when General John “Blackjack” Pershing first arrived in France in 1917, he soon realized a major problem in his command network: the phone system operated entirely in French.

So he lobbied the War Department for assistance from the homefront, putting out newspaper advertisements for telephone switchboard operators – at the time, an all-female occupation – who could speak French. Out of the 7,000 applicants, 450 were trained and 223 were deployed to Europe.

Hello Girls connect phone calls at the AEF headquarters, October 1918 (photo courtesy of Soldiers Magazine)

Despite their status as members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and swearing the same oath of enlistment as their male counterparts, the members of the Signal Corps Field Telephone Operators Unit – more commonly known as the Hello Girls – weren’t acknowledged as having been members of the military upon their return home. Their requests for honorable discharge paperwork, military decorations, or pensions were all denied.

It took until 1978 for the Hello Girls to be recognized as combat veterans.

BLUE & GOLD STAR MOTHERS

The Service Flag traces it’s roots to 1917 when Captain Robert Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry patented the design – a blue star on a red-trimmed banner – as a way of denoting parents whose sons were deployed to Europe. Through a suggestion by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses, the tradition evolved to include a gold star covering the blue to identify those parents whose children had given the ultimate sacrifice.

Every last Sunday of September is set aside to honor Gold Star Mothers whose sons and daughters have died in the defense of our nation. In more recent conflicts, any direct family member may also wear a lapel pin to honor their fallen loved ones.

GIRL SCOUTS OF THE USA

When President Wilson declared war on Germany in April 1917, the Girl Scouts of the United States – only five years into operation – sent a telegram to the White House to volunteer the services of girls across the country in support of the war effort.

Girl Scouts of all ages made an immediate impact as nurses, ambulance drivers, and conservationists whose victory gardens were a key to victory according to U.S. Food Administration Secretary Herbert Hoover.

In total, Girl Scouts of the USA were responsible for the sale of $9 million war bonds. It was also in 1917 that one of our nation’s most iconic symbols first appeared: the Girl Scout cookie.

THE FILM

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is an upcoming computer-animated feature film based on the incredible true story of America’s most decorated dog. After being rescued off the streets by a young Soldier on the eve of World War I, Stubby is given a home, a family, and the chance to embark on the adventure that would define a century. For his valor and courage, Stubby is recognized as the first dog promoted to the rank of Sergeant in U.S. Army history.

Starring Logan LermanHelena Bonham CarterGérard Depardieu
Music by Patrick Doyle
Animation by Mikros Image

The film is slated to theatrically debut on April 13, 2018. For exclusive production updates, follow Stubby’s big screen adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest!

Sgt. Stubby marches into theaters April 13, 2018!

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