Junior plays historic role paying homage to World War I heroine

Alexandra+King+as+Grace+Banker+in+Kinkaids+winter+musical+The+Hello+Girls.

David Shutts

Alexandra King as Grace Banker in Kinkaid’s winter musical “The Hello Girls.”

Eshaan Mani, Executive Digital Editor

Junior Alexandra King played the role of Grace Banker in Kinkaid’s production of “Hello Girls,” the off-Broadway musical that premiered on Nov. 13, 2018, two days after the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I. The show was intended to bring attention to a lesser-known group of women and their key contributions to the war effort. 

Grace Banker was perhaps one of the main reasons the United States emerged victorious from World War I, but people won’t find her name in any history textbooks. A nationwide petition is circulating to fix that.

King, who was nominated for outstanding performer in a leading role for her portrayal of Grace Banker, said her experience playing Grace Banker was a unique honor.

“I was really lucky to tell the story of someone who is not really well known but who made such an impact,” King said.

Banker was the chief operator of the Signal Corps Telephone Operator Unit), colloquially known as the “Hello Girls,” a group of switchboard operators in World War I and the main character in the Upper School’s musical. She led the first unit of women to contribute to American combat operations directly, often having to defend her actions and the actions of her unit against male supervisors.

“I really admire how she had the strength to stand up against the norm and defend herself,” King said. “It is a valuable lesson to learn, especially as a woman in the modern era.”

New Hampshire senator Maggie Hassan wrote that the all-female detachment was “crucial to connecting American and French forces” in World War I. 

Due to a lack of English-speaking switchboard operators, bilingual American women were permitted to serve in this position by a decree from General Pershing. A select few received a Distinguished Service Medal from Pershing, but they were denied veteran status after the Army’s decision to categorize them as contract workers.

Hassan is one of four senators and 13 representatives working to award the “Hello Girls” a Congressional Gold Medal. Resolutions, including S.815 and H.R. 1572, have been submitted to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, respectively. ​​

King and senior Taylor McMullen, who was also nominated in the same category for her role as Bertha Hunt, will learn if they will win awards at the Tommy Tune ceremony on May 4.

Editor’s note (05/05/2023): King and McMullen were named finalists for Leading Performer at the Tommy Tunes Awards, and McMullen was named Jimmy Award Nominee Runner-Up. Both performed in multiple numbers during the awards show at the Hobby Center. Stage manager and senior Adam Behr received a Tommy Tunes scholarship during the awards show.