Girls on the Line

Written by Aimie K. Runyan
Review by Julia C. Fischer

Girls on the Line brings to light the World War I Hello Girls. These American women served in the U.S. army as switchboard operators, connecting the troops so that they could get important messages while on the battlefield. Aimie K. Runyan focuses her story on Ruby, a young Philadelphia socialite, who longs for more than just marriage, children, and social engagements. In 1917, after working for the Bell Telephone Company, Ruby applies to be an army switchboard operator and goes to France to do her part, much to the chagrin of her mother. In France, Ruby finds her true calling as a supervisor, but she faces many obstacles, including the challenges of being a woman in a man’s world along with her burgeoning feelings toward Andrew, an army medic (Ruby already has a fiancé, Nathaniel).

Runyan’s book represents the best of historical fiction. First, Runyan introduces readers to the little-known Hello Girls and their instrumental role in helping to win the war. Second, Runyan brings WWI France to life, with its battlefields, hospitals, and switchboard rooms. Within this vivid historical setting, the reader is caught up in the story of Ruby, a strong woman who has one foot in the past and one foot in the modern world, which is not only represented by her desire for a career but also in the love triangle in which she finds herself entangled. Furthermore, the book is about the power of female friendship and feminism, as these women fight for equal rights and recognition. The pages crackle with history, the story of the unsung heroines of WWI, comradery, and finding the courage to be your true self.