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"Maman said to me today that being born amid so much change is what makes me an adventurous soul, born without the restrictions of the last century upon me. Born into a new time for women and for the world. She says something similar every year."
—Simone on her eighteenth birthday[2]

Simone Mercier Cates (née Spencer; born January 1, 1900) was a switchboard operator during World War I. She was the daughter of Brigitte and Mr. Spencer, and younger sister of William. Simone grew up in New York City. After America entered the Great War in 1917, Simone wanted to make herself useful. She went on to join the Signal Corps as a "Hello Girl."

Biography[]

Early life[]

Simone was born on January 1, 1900.[2] Her father was an American from the wealthy Spencer family of New York City. He met and married Brigitte while vacationing in France. Simone was their second child after William, who later married the "society" girl, Caroline Lawson.

World War I[]

After America joined the Great War in April 1917, Simone's brother Will enlisted in the army. He was shipped off to France in June. Meanwhile, Simone, having graduated from high school, was looking for her path in life. She started by volunteering at the YMCA. Simone then considered nursing school, but her father insisted on her volunteering at his hospital. Her best friend, Francie Walker, went with her the first time. Simone met a patient named Thomas Brennan, in a ward for wounded soldiers. She eventually helped pull out of his shell as he had stopped speaking. After helping Thomas, Simone seemed to lose her purpose and became unsure about nursing.

The following month, Simone learned of the Signal Corps need for French-speaking women to be trained as switchboard operators. She was too young, but the age requirement was lifted in due time. Her parents were calm about her decision to join. For Christmas, they purchase her uniform for her. The following month, Simone's training began. She was unable to make friends as the others avoided her for being upper-class. In March, she headed to the Western Front. Francie gave her a Christmas angel as a parting gift. On the ship, she befriended Alice Kealy. They were stationed in Chaumont, France, where Simone was reunited with Will. She also met Samuel "Sam" Cates there and fell in love with him.

Will and Sam were soon sent to the front lines, while Simone and Alice were placed in Neufchâteau. Simone gave Sam her angel ornament before he left. Some weeks later, Alice became sick and died shortly after. Simone remained by her friend's side and wrote a letter to her family. In September, Simone was transferred closer to the front lines. The war ended less than two months later. She lingered in Europe, hoping to find Will and Sam, before going back home. There Will informed her that Sam was dead, but she did not believe him. On Christmas Eve, Simone found a wounded Sam while volunteering at her father's hospital. He returned her angel, which she hung on the tree at home.

Later life[]

Simone and Sam were married on May 25, 1920 in Central Park. She became a physical therapist, while Sam began working for Will's real estate investment business which he had inherited from their grandfather. The couple later moved to Boston so Sam could attend Harvard Law School. In 1929, Simone and Sam were effected by the stock market crash and returned to live in her parents' home. There Sam became an advocate for immigrants and Simone worked at her father's hospital.

Her parents eventually moved to Paris, and Will and Caroline to the suburbs. Simone remained in the family home with her husband and three children for several years. During World War II, Simone planted a victory garden with her children and regularly volunteered. She and Sam moved to Paris once their children were grown. They were buried next to her parents and grandparents.

Personality and traits[]

Simone lived a rather sheltered, privileged life for the first seventeen years of her life. She disliked "high society," but was still ingratiated in it. Simone's worldview was expanded as she experienced life outside her small New York City neighborhood. She greatly desired to be "useful" when America joined the war. Simone tried her hand at volunteering before learning about the Signal Corps, which needed French-speaking women to train as switchboard operators. Simone also loved reading and learning, but disliked school. For that reason, she likely did not consider going to college.

Family tree[]

The Spencer-Cates Family Tree
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mr. and Mrs. Spencer
 
Jeanette Mercier
 
Christian Mercier
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mr. Spencer
 
Brigitte Spencer
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Caroline Lawson
 
William Spencer
(b. 1896)
 
Simone Spencer
(b. 1900)
 
Samuel Cates
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Children
 
 
 
 
 
Three
children

Behind the scenes[]

Appearances[]

References[]

See also[]


Dear America characters
Main characters

Remember "Mem" Whipple | Deliverance Trembley | Lozette Moreau | Catharine Logan | Prudence Emerson
Abigail Stewart | Lucinda Lawrence | María Rosalia de Milagros | Hattie Campbell | Mary Driscoll
Florence "Florrie" Mack Ryder | Susanna Fairchild | Clotee Henley | Amelia Martin | Emma Simpson
Sarah Nita | Phillis "Patsy" Frederick | Libby West | Priscilla "Pringle" Rose | Mary "Polly" Rodgers
Nannie Little Rose | Angeline Reddy | Sarah Jane Price | Teresa Viscardi | Anetka Kaminska
Zipporah Feldman | Minette "Minnie" Bonner | Angela Denoto | Margaret Ann Brady | Kathleen Bowen
Simone Spencer | Lydia Pierce | Nell "Nellie Lee" Love | Bess Brennan | Minerva "Minnie" Swift | Grace Edwards
Julie Weiss | Madeline Beck | Amber Billows | Piper Davis | Dawn "Dawnie Rae" Johnson | Molly Flaherty

Supporting characters

Antoinetta Viscardi | Leon Nasevich | Daniel Pierce | Erma Jean Love | Patrick Flaherty

Lists of characters by book

A Journey to the New World | I Walk in Dread | Look to the Hills | Standing in the Light
Love Thy Neighbor | The Winter of Red Snow | Cannons at Dawn | A Line in the Sand
Valley of the Moon | Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | All the Stars in the Sky
Seeds of Hope | A Picture of Freedom | A Light in the Storm | When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Great Railroad Race
Down the Rabbit Hole | Land of the Buffalo Bones | My Heart Is on the Ground | Behind the Masks
My Face to the Wind | West to a Land of Plenty | A Coal Miner's Bride | Dreams in the Golden Country
A City Tossed and Broken | Hear My Sorrow | Voyage on the Great Titanic | A Time for Courage
When Christmas Comes Again | Like the Willow Tree | Color Me Dark | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Christmas After All | Survival in the Storm | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
My Secret War | Early Sunday Morning | The Fences Between Us | With the Might of Angels
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

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