As war became imminent, Secretary of the Navy
Josephus Daniels realized that the Navy would be shorthanded and
he deftly avoided the need for congressional approval to enlist
women by pointing out that the Naval Act of 1916 did not actually
specify that yeomen must be menit called for persons.
He ordered his Navy and Marine Corps leaders to enlist women into
the reserve ranks and thousands of qualified women rushed to sign
up. More than 11,000 served as Yeomen (F) from 1917 through 1921.
The Marine Corps enlisted 305 women for clerical duties.
||Yeomen (F) came
from every state in the union as well as Alaska, Hawaii and
Puerto Rico. Most were middle class and thirteen were African
American. Fifty-seven Yeomen(F) died in service as a result
of a flu epidemic.
(F) learned to march in formation and carried rifles to emphasize
their military preparedness, although few ever fired weapons.
They participated in parades, war bond drives and official military
functions to inspire patriotism and rally public support.
Yeomen (F) filled administrative, secretarial and clerical positions
often working ten hours a day, six days a week. Although they
frequently described their jobs as boring and monotonous, they
kept men and supplies moving in support of the war.
The Navy Department already had hundreds of women
clerical workers, but needed more. As enlistees, women yeomen could
be trained quickly for specific jobs and sent where needed to fill
a variety of posts. Most Yeomen(F) traded protected, comfortable
environments for spare, crowded living quarters and for the same
strict discipline and regulation as male enlistees. They earned
the same pay as the men$28.75 a month.
When they were discharged, the Yeomen(F) received
honorable discharges, full veterans benefits and military preference
to obtain civil service ratings for jobs in the federal service.
Secretary Daniels called them the elect
of their sex, and considered it one of the greatest
honors of my life to have been associated with [them] in the days
of emergency and war.