By Matthew Piechalak | [email protected] 

Two recent Parker graduates won a bronze medal at this year’s National History Day competition. 

Elsa Baumgartner ’21 and Adelyn Phillips ’21 captured third place in the Senior Group Performance category at the 2021 Virtual National History Day Contest June 13-19.

The theme of this year’s contest was “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.” 

The students’ performance, “Operating on the Front Lines: The Hello Girls of World War I,” tells the story of Parker French teacher Evelyn Tilleard Cooper, who served as a “Hello Girl,” a telephone operator assisting on the front lines during World War I. 

“Our performance tells the story of Grace Banker and Evelyn, two women who worked as telephone operators for the [United States] Army during WWI,” Adelyn says. “They enabled communication and understanding between American troops and their allies by connecting and translating calls on the front lines of the war.” 

We had to conduct research, write the script, create the set, and direct each scene. And this year, the idea with the category was to make it as similar to a live performance as possible,” says Elsa. “So even though it was digital, we had to film just one video with no editing. We also faced the challenge of collaborating virtually over several months before getting to rehearse and perform together in-person.”

The performance was also recently showcased at the Smithsonian National Women’s Museum. 

Elsa and Addy have done History Day for so many years that they made history both accessible and entertaining––even in a COVID year,” says Parker History Teacher Cherie Redelings. “It was a happy combination of expert historians, talented performers, and an intriguing topic.” 

I’m so proud of all the work that I’ve put into History Day,” says Elsa. “We have truly improved our work every year, and this was a wonderful culmination of seven years of History Day. For me, I also appreciated the accomplishment as a final showcase of my seven years of theatre at Parker, and I loved getting to combine my History Day skills with the experience the Drama Club has given me in regard to performing, costuming, and more.”

“It was so special to win a medal at the national competition,” says Adelyn. “Having participated in National History Day for the past seven years, being able to say that each year I advanced a little farther and ultimately placed at Nationals is incredibly rewarding. My sixth grade self would be overjoyed to see where I am now. So my advice to other students would be to stick with it. History Day is such a valuable extracurricular: it has given me amazing friendships, mentorships, and valuable research skills. Looking back, History Day is the activity that has prepared me best for college too.”

Annually, the National History Day program includes more than 600,000 students nationwide, who create projects related to a central theme and compete in a series of history contests that progress from district to county, to state, and ultimately, national. More than 3,000 students from 50 US states and seven international affiliates participated in the national contest, held from June 13-19.