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July 2018

Women in the Great War: The Yeoman (F) of World War I

 

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Yeoman (F), 1918. New London, Connecticut. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.4.

Yeoman (F)—often referred to as “yeomanettes”—were enlisted women who served in the United States Navy during World War I. They served  as yeoman—enlisted personnel who fulfill administrative and clerical duties. They worked as radio operators, stenographers, draftsman, recruiting agents, messengers, or filled any necessary role in naval district operations. Vague language in the Naval Reserve Act of 1916 made no specific gender requirements for service. This opened the door to the over 11,000 women who enlisted as yeoman (F) from 1917 to 1918.

Thousands of men volunteered or were drafted into the Navy after the Act of 1916. Despite the growth in membership, the Navy remained shorthanded, and lacked personnel in critical clerical and administrative work.  Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) utilized the unclear language in the 1916 Naval Reserve Act to address the shortage. On March 19, 1917, the Bureau of Navigation sent letters to naval district commanders informing them they could recruit women into the Naval Coast Defense.

The yeomen (F) enlisted for the standard four years. The Navy added the suffix (F) for female after yeoman to make it easier to separate the women from the men. Most women were discharged by July 1919, as the Navy returned to peacetime activities. Yeoman (F) served for two to three years and many continued to work for the United States Military in a civilian capacity after the war. This 1918 photograph in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection shows a group of women identified as the yeoman (F) first class of New London, Connecticut.  

The women pictured wear the yeoman (F) uniform—a "Norfolk" style navy blue jacket with gold buttons, a navy colored A-line cloth skirt, and a felt navy blue wide-brimmed, flat-crowned hat. The Navy took several months to create and issue a formal uniform to the newly enlisted female yeoman. In intervening months, yeoman (F) uniforms included multicolored variations of either homemade or locally purchased items. In a June 19, 1917, New York Times article, detailed specifications for the new uniform going out for contract included the measurements, fabric, cut, and style of the new uniforms.  

A handwritten note on the back of the photograph includes a name and address,“Ruth A. Styffe Paull 25 Heroult Road, Worcester, Mass, 01606.”  According to naval records, Ruth A. Styffe Paull (1899-1988) enrolled in in September of 1918. In the 1930 U.S. census records for Worcester County, a Ruth Paull is listed as living at 25 Heroult road in Worcester, Massachusetts, confirming the address on the photograph. We are still trying to identify Styffe in the group photograph. 

Want to learn more about World War I related items in our collection? Visit the current exhibition “Americans, Do Your Bit: World War I in Posters,” on view through August 2018. 

References:

Nathaniel Patch, The Story of the Female Yeomen during the First World War, Prologue Magazine, National Archives and Records Administration, Fall 2006, Vol. 38, No. 3, www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2006/fall/yeoman-f.html, accessed July 2018.

Sophie Platt, Last surviving ‘yeomanette’ dies, The Flagship, April 5, 2007, www.militarynews.com/norfolk-navy-flagship/news/top_stories/last-surviving-yeomanette-dies/article_63657a3a-ccc2-5d11-8d64-89842ba4be34.html, accessed July 2018. 

 

New Acquisition highlights the challenges faced by Freemasonry in Post-Civil War South Carolina

A2018_009_002DS1As Union forces overtook South Carolina during the Civil War and after, many of the state’s Masonic Lodges were forced to suspend operations because of their members’ military service to the Confederacy and/or the displacement of the state’s civilian population. Such was the case in the city of Charleston, where Union shells fired by batteries on Morris Island prompted Charleston’s Masons to relocate their lodge at least twice, and in the city of Columbia, where the city’s lodge buildings were destroyed over the course of the war. At a meeting called by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina to “devise ways to obtain assistance” for the lodges under its jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge acknowledged its helplessness to aid its subordinate lodges and formed a committee to “urge our brethren abroad” to assist the state’s distressed Masons and Masonic Lodges.

While the war had devastated much of the state, including Georgetown, South Carolina’s, rice-growing economy, the city’s Masonic Lodge, Winyah Lodge, No. 40, had flourished. The Lodge’s “fine large building” had remained untouched, and its brothers continued their work uninterrupted until the summer of 1865, when Union soldiers occupied the city. The following circular letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library documents the occupancy and destruction of Winyah Lodge’s building by Union soldiers of the 15th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the months just after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. In it, the authors, two of which served in the Confederate military, petition their fellow Masons, both North and South, to aid Winyah Lodge in the rebuilding of their “lost Temple.” They describe in detail how the white soldiers of the 15th Maine torched their lodge building in response to being “relieved by a Battalion of United States colored Troops” under the command of Colonel A. J. Willard. The circular letter provides a fascinating insight into the difficulties faced by the Fraternity, as well as the country, in post-Civil War America, as well as touching upon issues such as race.

In the aftermath of the destruction of their lodge building and its contents by the 15th Maine, Winyah Lodge’s efforts to collect restitution from the Federal Government for its losses were blocked until the passage of the Tucker Act of 1887. This act waived the sovereign immunity of the United States in certain lawsuits, and allowed citizens to sue the Federal Government. Inexplicably, and for some unknown reason, the Lodge failed to take advantage of this new law until 1906, when the Trustees of Winyah Lodge, No. 40, filed their case. In the following year, the court, which noted this suspiciously long gap between the incident in question and the filing of the case, ruled that it could not determine from the evidence presented who started the fire. 

 

 


Caption

Circular letter from Winyah Lodge, No. 40, to Pacific Lodge, No. 45, June 4, 1873. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 540.001

References

Boyd, Mary, and James H. Clark (2010). Georgetown and Winyah Bay. Charlestown, S.C.: Arcadia Pub.

Emanuel, S. (1909). An Historical Sketch of the Georgetown Rifle Guards and as Co. A of the Tenth Regiment, So. Ca. Volunteers, in the Army of the Confederate States. South Carolina: [no publisher]. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://archive.org/details/02830886.3413.emory.edu

Shorey, Henry A. (1890). The Story of the Maine Fifteenth. Bridgeton, Me.: Press of the Bridgton News. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://archive.org/details/storyofmainefif00shor

 “From the Quarries.” American Tyler 8, 1 (1894): 836-837. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=vctNAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22winyah%20lodge%2C%20No.%2040%22%20masons%20georgetown&pg=PA837#v=onepage&q=%22three%20months'%20vacation%22&f=false

U.S. Congress. Senate. United States Congressional Serial Set. Trustees of Winyah Lodge No. 40, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Georgetown S.C. 59th Cong., 2d sess., 1907. S. Doc. No. 225, serial 5071. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://books.google.com/books/about/United_States_Congressional_serial_set.html?id=K-o3AQAAIAAJ

United States National Park Service. “Soldiers and Sailors Database: Emanuel, Solomon.” Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=8FEEAE9A-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A