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Women in the U.S. Navy: Historic Documents

History of Women in the Navy; Navy Department Press Release, 30 July 1942



The following background material is provided for information of the press in conjunction with the establishment of the Women's Reserve, U.S. Naval Reserve.

The Navy Nurse Corps

The Navy Nurse Corps was established by Congress in 1908, but at that time no provision was made for rank or rating comparable to the Navy's male personnel. While they have never held actual rank, the Navy nurses have since been accorded privileges similar to those of officers.

Under a congressional enactment approved by President Roosevelt on July 3, 1942, members of the Navy Nurse Corps were granted relative rank. This means that while they are not actually commissioned officers, they hold rank corresponding to that of officers in the Naval service.

Miss Sue S. Dauser, of Anaheim, Orange County, California, is Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps and has a rank relative to that of a Lieutenant Commander. She has served in the Corps since 1917, and has been Superintendent since 1939.


During March, 1917, as the United States was reaching her final decision to enter the World War, the Navy's need for clerical assistance was far greater than had been anticipated. Shore stations, whose activities had been increased by the preparation for war, were asking for assistance. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels in describing the situation stated:

"There was no appropriation to pay civilians for the work that was immediately necessary. Every bureau and naval establishment appealed for clerks and stenographers. How could they be secured at once? The Civil Service Commission could not furnish a tithe of the number required, even if there had been the money to pay them.

"`Is there any law that says a yeoman must be a man?' I asked my legal advisers. The answer is that there was not, but that only men had heretofore been enlisted. The law did not say `male.'

"`Then enroll women in the Naval Reserve as yeomen,' I said, `and we will have the best clerical assistance the country can provide.'"

This was done under provisions of the Act of August 29, 1916, which established the Naval Reserve Force To be composed of six classes:

    First. The Fleet Naval Reserve.
    Second. The Naval Reserve
    Third. The Naval Auxiliary Reserve
    Fourth. The Naval Coast Defense Reserve
    Fifth. The Volunteer Naval Reserve
    Sixth. Naval Reserve Flying Corps.

The Naval Coast Defense Reserve was to be composed of:

"Members of the Naval Reserve Force who may be capable of performing special useful service in the Navy or in connection with the Navy in defense of the coast shall be eligible for membership in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve.

The Navy Department sent the following letter on March 19, 1917, to all Commandants of Naval Districts on the Enrollment of women in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve:

"1. The following decision of the Navy Department is quoted for your information:-- May women be enrolled in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve? After a careful reading of that part of the Act of August 29, 1916, which created the Naval Reserve Force, of which the Naval Coast Defense Reserve is a class, nothing can be found which would prohibit the enrollment in the Naval Reserve Force and in the class mentioned of women. On the contrary, it is believed that their enrollment was contemplated. You are informed, therefore, that women may be enrolled in the this class of the Naval Reserve Force."

2. The Bureau authorizes the enrollment of women in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve in the ratings of yeomen, electrician (radio) or in such other ratings as the Commandant may consider essential to the district organizations.

3. In making monthly report of personnel, a separate list shall be submitted of women reservists in the Naval Coast Defense Reserve."

Immediately after the United States went to war against the Central Powers the enrollment of women was taken up on a large scale in order to release enlisted men for active service at sea. As a result a total of 11,275 Yeomen (F) were in service at the time the armistice was signed and most of the immense volume of clerical work at the Navy Department, in addition to many highly important special duties, was being handled by them.

In addition to the purely clerical duties performed by the Yeomen (F), others served as translators, draftsmen, fingerprint-experts, camouflage designers and recruiting agents. Five Yeomen (F), enlisted in the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, served with hospital units in France. One served in connection with the operations of the office of Naval Intelligence in Puerto Rico.

Yeomen (F) were stationed at Guam, the Panama Canal zone and Hawaii, in addition to the United States and France. About 300 marinettes, as the feminine enlisted personnel of the Marine Corps was designated, were on duty during the war. Most of them were stationed at Marine Corps Headquarters at the Navy Department although a number performed reliable service in connection with Marine Corps recruiting.

(Attached are summaries showing Yeomen (F) on active duty as of April 1, 1917 to July 1, 1919, and number of Yeomen (F) enrolled, listed according to states of residence.)

All Yeomen (F) were released from active duty by July 31, 1919, and to them Secretary Daniels sent the Following message:

"It is with deep gratitude for the splendid service rendered by the Yeomen (F) during our national emergency that I convey to them the sincere appreciation of the Navy Department for their patriotic cooperation.

As enrollments had been made for four years, the Yeomen (F) were continued on the rolls of the Navy in inactive status and received the retainer pay of $12.00 a year until the expiration of enlistment, when they are discharged from the Naval Service.

A large number of women who had been on duty in the Navy Department and at Navy Yards and Stations, were given temporary appointments to same or similar positions under the Civil Service, but had pass an examination given by the Commission to qualify for permanent appointment. The former Yeomen (F) who had received honorable discharges were included in provisions for military preference and allowed an increase of five per cent on Civil Service ratings. They were included in all subsequent benefits affecting World War Veterans.

(Enlistments by States)
Alabama - 21
Alaska - 0
Arizona - 3
Arkansas - 12
California - 557
Colorado - 17
Connecticut - 315
Delaware - 5
District of Columbia - 1,874
Florida - 31
Georgia - 30
Idaho - 6
Illinois - 210
Indiana - 45
Iowa - 47
Kansas - 32
Kentucky - 35
Louisiana - 128
Maine - 72
Maryland - 418
Massachusetts - 1,324
Michigan - 49
Minnesota - 80
Mississippi - 36
Missouri - 40
Montana - 13
Nebraska - 11
Nevada - 4
New Hampshire - 80
New Jersey - 352
New Mexico - 1
New York - 2,329
North Carolina - 190
North Dakota - 10
Ohio - 207
Oklahoma - 33
Oregon - 79
Pennsylvania - 1,067
Rhode Island - 235
South Carolina - 143
South Dakota - 11
Tennessee - 53
Texas - 107
Utah - 20
Virginia - 1,071
Washington - 179
West Virginia - 137
Wisconsin - 92
Wyoming - 2
Guam - 0
Hawaii - 24
Philippines - 0
Puerto Rico - 0
Samoa - 0
Others - 29
No Residence - 10
Virgin Islands - 0

Published: Thu Nov 30 08:02:53 EST 2017