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
 

4 comments:

  1. Great story! My grandmother was a US Navy Yeomanette as well! She graduated with the class of May 7, 1919, after the end of WWI. Do you keep a list of Yeomanettes, their dates of service, and their duty stations? I'd love to look through that kind of archive!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We're glad you enjoyed this story! Unfortunately we only have information about a very few Yeomanettes in our collection, but if you tell me the name of your grandmother, I would be happy to look and see if we have anything. It sounds like you are looking for her service record which will ultimately require contacting the National Archives. See this link for more information:
    http://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww2/ww2-participation.pdf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Her name was Helma Caroline Anderson. Born 02 September 1894 in East Providence, RI, and died 30 July 1973 in Warwick. She enlisted as a Yeoman-F in 1917, at age 23, and was eventually known as a Yeomanette. Her tour was completed in July 1919. Her designated assignment was as assistant to a Navy Commander known as the "Chief Bookkeeper" at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. An aunt of mine registered her as a charter member of the Women in Military Service memorial in 1989, so there may be some info there. Your archives link refers to WWII - are persons who served in World War One also to be found there?

      Delete
    2. Just finished looking - unfortunately we don't have any information on your grandmother in our collection. Yes, the link is relevant to WWI records as well. In particular, I would try requesting her records using the process described under the "Individual Personnel Files" section in that document. I would be very interested to know if this works for you and what you are able to find out. Please stay in touch!

      Delete