Remarks by Secretary Robert Wilkie - Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Robert Wilkie

Hello Girls Introduction Video
Washington, DC (video)
February 28, 2020

I am Robert Wilkie, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

You’re about to watch a documentary that traces the amazing story of the first female soldiers who served during World War I.

The ‘Hello Girls’ were 223 extraordinary women who served as telephone operators during the great war. In 1917, the telephone was a new technology that could offer commanders an advantage on the frontlines in France.

General John “Black Jack” Pershing needed skilled telephone operators who understood this new technology. When the men in the Army weren’t quick enough, he enlisted the Hello Girls, against the wishes of everybody in the high command.

Thousands of women would apply for the job – bilingual, smart tech whizzes united in the cause of saving France.

But the 223 ‘Hello Girls’ were more than switchboard operators—they were pioneers. They were pioneers who opened the door for generations of women, even though it would be decades before America recognized their service.

Today, women continue to break down barriers in the service of America, and they don’t have to fight for status, inclusion or services at VA.

During Women’s History Month and every month, we’re working to provide a full range of services for our women Veterans, and the numbers show we are succeeding. Women are the fastest growing population we serve at VA, and we expect 20 percent of our patients will be women in just a few short years.

And women continue to enroll in and use VA at record levels. In the last year, 41 percent of all women Veterans were enrolled in VA, and we expect that number to keep climbing.

That says a lot about the quality of our care and our expanded ability to care for women Veterans.

The documentary you’re about to watch highlights the trailblazers who set in motion all of these changes.

I hope you’re as moved by their history as I am.

To all the women Veterans who served, who endured, and are still serving this great nation in uniform, thank you.