The Navy’s First Enlisted Women: Patriotic Pioneers - 2019

Front Cover, The Navy's First Enlisted Women: Patriotic Pioneers, Naval History and Heritage Command, 2019.

Front Cover, The Navy's First Enlisted Women: Patriotic Pioneers, Naval History and Heritage Command, 2019. GGA Image ID # 19146141e2


Once again women responded to the call to action. They filled jobs left vacant by men serving in the military, and maintained the home front. They staffed canteens, grew food, and sold liberty bonds. Red Cross nurses worked at home and in the war theater. The “hello girls” speaking fluent French operated the U.S. Army Signal Corps switchboards overseas. The military also relied on women to alleviate their personnel shortages. Army and Navy nurses treated patients at home and abroad. For the first time, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard enlisted women.

When the Civil Service Commission reported its inability to provide the number of personnel required to meet the Navy’s need for clerical workers, Secretary Daniels explored his options. When he learned that there was no legal reason why women could not be enlisted, he changed the Navy forever. For the first time, women joined the ranks of its enlisted men. The yeomen (F.) and the Navy nurses in World War I paved the way for the women in today’s Navy.

From the Author

My hope is that this history educates, entertains, and engages readers and motivates them to learn more about these outstanding women. May it also raise new questions about the yeomen (F.)’s experiences and give readers a greater appreciation for their World War I service and sacrifice. I believe readers will be inspired by the female yeomen’s patriotism and contributions. The conclusions presented are mine and do not necessarily represent the Department of Defense or any component thereof. I am responsible for any errors therein.


It has been an honor to write this illustrated history about the Yeomen (F.), the U.S. military’s first enlisted women, as one of the historical products developed by the Naval History and Heritage Command for the Commemoration of World War I.

This work could not have been done without the outstanding assistance and support provided by the staffs at the Navy Department Library, the command’s archives and photo section, as well as the National Archives I, and the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

I thank my branch head, Dr. Kristina Giannotta; my acting branch head, Dr. Mark A. Nicholas; my deputy branch head, Brian Shottenkirk, and my section heads, Mr. Christopher Ghiz and Dr. Gregory Bereiter, for this opportunity and for their encouragement.

Dr. Peter Luebke and Dr. Richard Hulver, my peer reviewers, provided invaluable input. Their generosity meant more than I can say. I am also indebted to Ms. Wilma Haines, my outstanding editor, who enhanced my draft and helped to transform it into the publication you are holding. There are not enough words to express my appreciation for those who faithfully prayed with and for me throughout this process.

This is an official U.S. Government edition of this publication and is herein identified to certify its authenticity.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • United States Navy Ranks DuringWorld War I
  • Chapter 1: “Setting the Stage”
  • Chapter 2: “Women Join the Navy”
  • Chapter 3: “Reporting to Work”
  • Chapter 4: “Changing the World, Their Lives, and the Navy”
  • Epilogue
  • For Further Research

About the Author

Regina T. Akers is a historian in the Emergent Response Section in the Histories Branch in the History and Archives Division at the Naval History and Heritage Command. She enjoys a national reputation as a subject matter expert on diversity and personnel issues in the United States military, with an emphasis on women and African Americans in the Navy.

As the command’s lead oral historian, she conducts career, special topic, and end-of-tour interviews with senior leaders and other notable civilian and military personnel. Dr. Akers earned her doctorate in U.S. and Public History at Howard University, where she taught women’s and public history as an adjunct professor. Her publications include book chapters, articles, book reviews, and blogs.

Dr. Akers presents at a myriad of symposia ranging from the Naval Academy to the National Archives, and has given many subject matter expertise media interviews. Her special assignments include the African American Civil War Sailors Project, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Task Force, and the advisory committee to establish a women’s history museum on the National Mall.

As a member of the inter-service committee updating the Pentagon’s African American Corridor, Dr. Akers is writing the Navy content for the new exhibit.

Library of Congress Catalog Listing

  • Personal name: Akers, Regina T., author.
  • Main title: The Navy's first enlisted women : patriotic pioneers / Regina T. Akers, PhD.
  • Published/Produced: Washington, DC : Naval History and Heritage Command, Department of the Navy, [2019]
  • Description: vi, 68 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
  • ISBN: 9781943604357 (pbk.)
  • LC classification: D639.W7 A34 2019
  • Related names: Naval History & Heritage Command (U.S.), issuing body.
  • Summary: "History of the First Enlisted Women during World War I." --Provided by publisher.
  • Contents: United States Navy ranks during World War I -- "Setting the stage" -- "Women join the Navy" -- "Reporting to work" -- "Changing the world, their lives, and the Navy" -- Epilogue.
  • LC Subjects: United States. Navy--History--World War, 1914-1918. United States. Navy--Women--History--20th century. United States. Navy--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.--History--20th century. World War, 1914-1918--Women--United States. Yeomen (F)--History.
  • Subject keywords: Yeowomen; Yeomanettes;
  • Notes: Includes bibliographical references (page 67).
  • Additional formats: Online version: Akers, Regina T., author. Navy's first enlisted women Washington, DC : Naval History and Heritage Command, Department of the Navy, [2019] 9781943604425 (DLC) 2019013531
  • Series: World War I commemorative series
  • LCCN: 2019012002
  • Dewey class no.: 940.4/5973082
  • Geographic area code: n-us---
  • Type of material: Book
  • Content type: text
  • Media type: unmediated
  • Carrier type: volume
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