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In 1918, the U.S. Army Signal Corps shipped 233 women to embattled France. They were masters of the latest technology: the telephone switchboard. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, demanded female "wire experts" when he discovered that inexperienced doughboys were unable to keep him connected with frontline troops. Without communications for even an hour, the army would collapse. While suffragists picketed the White House and Woodrow Wilson fought a segregationist congress to give women of all races the vote, these courageous young soldiers swore the army oath and served their nation under fire. They sailed home as heroes—until Congress decided they never existed.
Elizabeth Cobbs is a prize-winning historian, novelist, and documentary filmmaker. She is the author of eight books, including The Hello Girls: America’ First Women Soldiers from Harvard University Press and the New York Times’ bestseller, The Hamilton Affair. Her most recent book is The Tubman Command, a novel on the Civil War military service of Harriet Tubman. Cobbs has won eight literary and film prizes, written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Jerusalem Times, Los Angeles Times, and Reuters, and produced two historical documentaries for public television. She previously served on the State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee and jury for the Pulitzer Prize. A Stanford Ph.D., Cobbs holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M.