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Posted By: Walt Mathers on: 07/24/2002 21:38:03 CDT
Subject: Women in the Telegraph Corps...More Concerning

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Tnx for joining our most esteemed set of forum contributors. Nice to have you on board. You must have gobbled up a lot of posts since the "Women in the Signal Corps" thread is nigh-on down near the bottom of the page.

In rely to yours commenting that Dave said it might be alright to create, "a "legend"... about a woman (wife, laundry-woman, or whatever) having learned the code and filling in in emergency?" this isn't exactly a legend.
I concur that the term Legend is word that all of us should really keep from leaning on but we know that Louisa Volker, a lady telegraphist, actually did come into such a situation out in Mineral Point, Missouri.

Thomas Jepsen writes:

Sometime around the beginning of 1863, Louisa Volker became a member of the Military Telegraph Corps of the Union army. She probably volunteered for the position as Military Telegrapher, and was accepted due to the shortage of telegraph operators in the area. The only surviving written account of her work as a Military Telegrapher appears in Plum's book, The Military Telegraph During the Civil War in the United States (see SCARD's bibliography), where Plum discusses the situation in southeastern Missouri in the summer of 1863:

About seven months previous, Miss Louisa E. Volker, a most estimable young lady, had relieved C. T. Barrett, operator at Mineral Point, and became at once not only the first lady operator in the [USMT], west of the Mississippi, but the only operatrix who had ever telegraphed on that side of the river. Entering upon duties which, heretofore, had devolved exclusively upon young men, she realized that peculiar feeling of responsibility which arises from an important but experimental trust, and hence, with all the zeal of a leader, she undertook the fulfillment of this new role of feminine usefulness in war. . .

Scott Sheads of NPS Fort McHenry ask to have Federal signallists and telegraph operators at the Garrison Weekend last April even though I mentioned that no signal operations were known to have occurred in Baltimore Harbour during the war. Scott said that he wanted to show a general or representative group of portrayals which may have occured somewhere along the coastal defenses of the Atlantic seaboard. This is what Dave may have been referring to when he was looking to see how we might justify female telegraphers as some of us do by attending tent city events where no canvas would have been available historically or at events much like McDowell, Va. or elsewhere, where we all must look the other way while walking around parked horseless carriages.

Dave isn't a re-enactor but he has been made aware of many of the issue we constantly struggle with.

Keep 'em comin' Lester. We can stand more lively posts such as yours as they allow to us reflect on the why and wherefore of our activities. Challenge is a word I like.

Walt Mathers

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Signal Corps Association (1860-1865)
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