The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Home Collection Search

Object Record

Yeoman (F) Uniform
Armed Forces History, Division of History of Technology, National Museum of American History

Yeoman (F) Uniform

Catalog #: 1983.0159.03    Accession #: 1983.0159
Credit: Division of Military History and Diplomacy, National Museum of American History

Dimensions / Weight

Dimensions: 31" H x 17" W x 20" D

Physical Description

"Norfolk" style jacket of navy blue with gold buttons and navy colored A-line cloth skirt. Wide-brimmed, flat-crowned "sailor" style hat of navy blue felt.

Specific History

Donated by Gertrude French Howalt who is believed to have worn the uniform while serving as a yeoman in World War I.

General History

In 1917 as the United States prepared for World War I, the navy faced a crisis: skilled clerks and secretaries were desperately needed, but men didn't possess these skills in the numbers required. The Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, asked his staff "Is there any law that says a yeoman must be a man?" The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 did not specify gender for members of the Naval Coast Defense Reserve, and the navy began enlisting women in March. While most women were in secretarial or clerical jobs, other skills needed included telegrapher, draftsman, translator, mess attendant, ship camouflage designers, and recruiting agents. The women were only permitted to serve at shore stations, but confusion occurred when some of the women were given orders for sea duty. To avoid this error the navy added the suffix (F) for female after yeoman to make it easier to separate the women from the men. The work done by about 11,000 women in the navy was highly regarded, but all women were discharged by July 1919 as the navy returned to peacetime activities. To compensate for the sudden loss of administrative talent, the navy got special permission to expedite hiring of some women veterans through the Civil Service. The navy nurses, who were employed as civilians with the navy, continued to serve during the period between the two world wars. Women were not "in" the navy again until World War II.


Country: United States
War: World War I
Service: Navy
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Printable ScriptVisit the MuseumEducationCredits