Friday, March 29, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: Photographs of the Women's Uniform Shop, 1966

---Kiersten Tibbetts, Curatorial Intern

Captain Rita Lenihan and Rear Admiral
Means Johnston Jr.
The Naval War College Museum is honoring Women’s History Month by recognizing the history of women in the Navy.  It is a fitting time to share the recent donation of photographs from the opening of the Women Officers Uniform Shop at Naval Station Newport in 1966.

Women have officially served in the U.S. Navy ever since the Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908. Over 90,000 female officers and enlisted personnel served as part of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II.  In 1948 the Women's Armed Service Integration Act authorized women to serve in the military during peacetime. In previous blogs we wrote about the local ties of one of the first seven women promoted to captain and the first female master chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy. The donation of these photographs revealed that Newport was the location of another milestone. The first ever Women Officers Uniform Shop in the U.S. Navy was opened at Naval Station Newport on 11 October 1966.

The shop, operated by the Navy Exchange, was set up primarily to serve the needs of trainees at the Officer Candidate School. The 700-square foot facility was located in building 36, adjacent to Toyland. Originally a warehouse, the building was redesigned in a residential style and painted in pastel colors. The building does not exist today, but was in the approximate area of Sims Hall at the Naval War College. The shop served approximately 2,000 personnel a year, including chief petty officers, Navy nurses, nurses of the Public Health Service, and Coast Guard officers. It included racks of uniforms, hats, shoes, dressing rooms, and a tailoring section.

During the opening, Navy Exchange officer Lieutenant Commander Glenn L. Gaddis noted that the shop was, "another demonstration that the Navy takes care of its own." Captain R.P. Nicholson, Commanding Officer of NAVSTA Newport reflected that, "This Uniform Shop cannot help but have a very decided effect upon the personal attitudes and morale of all women Naval personnel." He addressed the ways in which the Navy Resale System responds to the needs of the Navy and noted, "To the extent that we can continue to provide the best possible service to all components who form our loyal and devoted members, we can promise you, "'it will be done.'" Captain Rita Lenihan, Bureau of Naval Personnel Assistant Chief for Women, attended the ceremonies and later wrote that the shop created great interest among the officers, many of whom were frustrated with delays in the construction of WAVES barracks.

The Women Officers Uniform Shop has since been replaced by the Uniform and Tailor Shop to service both men and women.

Gift of Captain Glenn L. Gaddis, USN (ret.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Artifact Spotlight: Yeomanette Uniform, c. 1918

---Kiersten Tibbetts, Curatorial Intern

In honor of Women’s History Month, the museum  recently installed a World War I era Second Class Yeoman (F) uniform in the Naval Training Station Gallery. As the United States entered the war, every able bodied man was needed to fight, but many held non-combat support positions. The Naval Act of 1916 called for all citizens, to join the Naval Reserve Forces, and opened the door for women to join the Navy.

The broad language of the act was interpreted to allow the Navy to enlist women as Yeoman (F), nicknamed “Yeomanettes,” in the Naval Reserve Force, Fourth Class: the Naval Coast Defense Reserve. The “Yeomanettes” served as clerks, cryptographers, radio operators, truck drivers, electricians, camouflage designers, telephone operators and munitions makers.  They allowed men in these positions to be free to go to war.  A total of 11,275 women were enlisted by war’s end.

Newport hosted a large concentration of the new female recruits. Several hundred served in Newport at the Supply Office, Second Naval District. Even greater numbers trained at the Yeoman School on base prior to their wartime assignments.  Since Founders Hall, the current home of the museum, funcitoned as the base administration headquarters during the war, many Yeomanettes served within its walls. The World War I era Second Class Yeoman (F) uniform on display includes the single-breasted blue service coat, skirt, and straight-brimmed sailor hat. This uniform also would have included black shoes, stockings, a white shirt waist, and a cape for cold weather. The women who served were awarded the Victory Medal for their contribution to the American war effort. 

Visitors can see the “Yeomanette” uniform on exhibit and learn more about the role of these women in the naval history of Narragansett Bay.

The uniform is on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Busts of Agrippa and Themistocles: Classical Studies at the Naval War College

---Kiersten Tibbetts, Curatorial Intern

Captain W.L. Rodgers
Classical studies have always been an important part of the curriculum at the Naval War College.  Historical case studies, such as the Peloponnesian War, encourage students to think more broadly about their profession by concentrating on strategic principles. Former president Captain William Ledyard Rodgers (1860-1944), who graduated with the class of 1895 and served on the staff in the early 1900s, was a student of the classics and wrote several books on the military history of the ancient world. In 1936, Rodgers donated marble busts of the Roman general Agrippa and the Athenian general Themistocles to the Naval War College in hopes that they would remind students of the importance of the Classics in the study of naval warfare. 

As President of the Naval War College from 1911-1913, Captain William L. Rodgers was instrumental in shaping the curriculum. In The Field of Work to be Filled by a Naval War College he outlined the three goals of the college: to prepare officers for leadership and command in wartime, to develop the art and science of naval war by study and research, and to aid the General Board in war planning. The second objective in particular highlights the importance of studying works such as Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War (still required reading today), and the lessons of Themistocles and Agrippa's victories. In his 1936 letter donating the busts, Rodgers wrote, “I fear their great deeds and their places in the history of naval warfare is little known to most…The variety of fields of action of both put them above all modern admirals that I know of, who were good at their own profession only. These were great in all that they attempted.”   At the time, Rodgers was writing,  Greek and Roman Naval Warfare: A Study of Strategy, Tactics and Ship Design from Salamis (480 B.C.) to Actium and the two generals left quite an impression.