The Yeoman (F) of the U. S. Naval Reserve Force
Faced with the dilemma of having able-bodied men filling clerical positions instead manning ships, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, a supporter of women’s suffrage, found a creative solution. Daniels noted that Naval Appropriations Act of 1916 specified that citizens rather than men could enlist in the Naval Reserves. After getting clearance from his legal advisers, Secretary Daniels had his staff begin recruiting women to fill non-combat, stateside positions.
11,275 women, aged 18 to 35, joined the Naval Reserves for 4 year enlistment periods. They were given the classification of Yeoman (F) to correct earlier problems when a few of them were ordered to report for battleship duty. Yeomen (F) received the same pay rate as Yeomen but, unlike their sister servicewomen serving in the Army Signal Corps, they were considered to be a part of the service and not contract workers. They received a uniform allowance but were not provide with housing and had to either live with family or board near their bases.
Many of the Naval servicewomen, like Hartford’s Julia Freedman, where part of generation who had been able to take advantage of the growing need for clerical staff that factories and service business corporations required. They not only served as the stenographers and bookkeepers but were also were trained by the Navy to be telephone operators, fingerprint analysts and wireless operators.
Upon their discharge, Yeomen (F) received the same Victory Medals and Good Conduct metals as the male Yeomen and were also eligible for veteran benefits including burial in Arlington Cemetery, $60 discharge bonuses and medical care for service-related disabilities.
Secretary Daniels valued the Yeomen’s (F) service saying “I do not know how the business of the department, of the navy yards and stations and of the districts, could have been carried on without them.”