No! I ain't a yeomanette no more
And though I hate the very thought of war,
If Uncle Sam should ever say,
"I need ten thousand girls today,"
Would he get 'em"?
Well, I'll say! And more.
Yeoman (F) E. Lyle McLeod, "No More"
quoted from Lettie Gavin, American Women in WWI
When Congress passed the Naval Act of 1916, the language opened the door for women to volunteer for the U.S. Naval Reserve. The Act, which called for a build-up of the U.S. Navy from ships to personnel used the term "persons" when referring to recruitment, rather than "men." As a result, and due to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniel's support, the Navy opened recruitment to women in reserve ranks. Starting on March 19, 1917, Daniels and the Bureau of Navigation, informed naval district commanders that they could recruit women for a broad range of roles including "radio operators, stenographers, messengers, chauffeurs," as well as nurses, for the Naval Coast Defense Reserve. Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first woman, who was not a nurse, to serve in the armed forces for the United States when she enlisted on 17 March 1917 as a Yeoman (F).
With the rank of Yeoman (F), these women received the same pay as their male counterparts, attended training, and had to be outfitted with a uniform. Many of these women conducted their training in Newport, R.I.
Yeoman (F) enlisted for the standard four years of all Navy Yeoman, however, the Navy and the federal government began to dismantle female volunteer enlistment as early as 1918. The Navy officially released all Yeoman (F) from service in 1920, however, the last woman was reportedly discharged in 1921.
More than 11,000 women volunteered and served as U.S. Navy Yeomen (F) from 1917 through 1921.
Yeomanettes in Newport
Newport, Rhode Island housed, hosted and trained thousands of Yeomanette from 1917 to 1919. The lived on the base and worked at the Supply Office for the Second Naval District. Yeoman (F) came to Newport for training at the Yeoman School before being sent to their war time assignments.
Women stationed in Newport served in naval clerical billets, freeing up men to go to war, but they also worked to support intelligence and torpedo development as translators, telephone operators, camouflage designers, fingerprint experts, and assemblers of delicate torpedo parts at Naval Training Station and the Goat Island Naval Torpedo Station.