Women in the Great War - World War I
World War I was the first war in which American women were recruited to serve in the military. Women were already present in France as members of the American Red Cross. As canteen workers, but for the most part, French and Belgian women staffed American military offices.
In October 1917, the new American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) telephone system was implemented. Still, the American soldiers and the French women working as telephone operators could not communicate. The need for bilingual telephone operators precipitated the recruitment of American women.
If the Germans capture any Army or Navy nurses, the American Red Cross will support them during captivity. This decision follows closely upon the announcement that, under the law, the pay of Army nurses.
Over in one of the largest regiments at Great Lakes, the fifteenth is located the workshop for twelve intrepid young ladies. Intrepid because they all left good homes and came “west” because America needed them.
The demand in France for the YWCA and its warm, efficient hospitality grew entirely out of bounds in the days before peace was declared. By cable came a series of desperate pleas.
The Establishment of Yeoman (f), better known as the Yeomanette, was accomplished under the provisions of an Act of 29 Aug 1916, which set up the Naval Reserve Force.
Hence, canteens and rest stations, and all their cooperation with the government, YMCA, and other war agencies, render the soldier life as tolerable, comforting, and heartening as possible.
Emergency detachments of the Nursing Service have been found necessary because of war. The body of enrolled Red Cross nurses constitutes the Army and Navy Nurse Corps reserve.
Woman's Bureau of the Red Cross—Its purposes and plans—A general survey—Supply service and Bureau of Standards—Knitting, hospital garments, surgical dressings, comfort kits, etc.—Home service—Volunteer aids—Work organized, and canteens established in France—Junior Red Cross—School fund—Red Cross school activities—How to organize.
I am honored to contribute The Navy’s First Enlisted Women: Patriotic Pioneers to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) commemoration publications for World War I.
This chapter provides essential context for the history of the Navy’s first enlisted women. It highlights sharp contrasts our founding principles, democratic values, justification for war, and the treatment of women and African Americans.
Over 11,000 women from every state, American territory, and the District of Columbia volunteered to enlist into the United States Navy to free male Sailors for combat duties.
The Navy’s first enlisted women worked at naval commands across the United States and overseas, supported Allied operations and campaigns, and contributed directly to the Allied victory.
Despite their invaluable service, yeomen (F.) had to fight for the rights and benefits they deserved. Post-war developments mirrored pre-war beliefs about military women and a lack of respect for them.
Though enlisted primarily to provide clerical support, they excelled in munitions assembly, intelligence, cable decoding, recruitment, and other non-administrative specialties.
The yeomen (F.) enhanced the legacy of the women who had previously supported the nation during wars, conflicts, and crises, and set an example for those who followed them.
The third telephone unit of the signal corps of the United States Army is ready to start for “Some place in France.”
The total number of hostess houses for which the committee assumed responsibility for November 1, 1919, is 124. Of these, 17 have been for [African-American] visitors.
From the beginning, the War Work Council planned to include not only American women affected by the war, but because of the pleas from France and Russia, the first budget contained an item for work in Europe.
We have whole nations to feed, entire peoples to clothe, and the most stupendous task of economic reconstruction the world has ever seen.
When it was discovered that there was a sizable number of battle-ready Marines still doing clerical work in the United States who were urgently needed overseas, the Corps turned in desperation to the female business world.
The new enlisted women could become yeomen, electricians (radio operators), or any other ratings necessary to the naval district operations. The majority became yeomen and were designated as yeomen (f) for female yeomen.