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Strange WWI Navy Women's Story? Need help/opinions.


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#1 mars&thunder

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Posted 01 September 2018 - 08:27 AM

I was browsing Vol 2 of the Maine in the World War rosters and I came across some odd activity in the section devoted to Navy Nurses and Yeoman (F). There were 4 names (Lottie E. Purington, Mary E. Robinson, Minnie E. Smith, and Mary E. Wakefield) all of whom were disenrolled on 31 August 1918. They were stationed in different locations so clearly this was some sort of general administrative action. The odd thing was that all 4 of these individuals carried a rating of SC 4 c. The only Navy title I could associate with SC was Ships Cook. Only women (in the Maine Roster at least) with a rating/specialty of SC were disenrolled. All the others - nurses and yeomen, did not suffer this fate. SO there was something objectionable about women with this specialty. I am used to reading about women serving as yeomen or a few signalmen, but never heard of any enrolled as cooks. Does anyone have any opinion on what was going on or can add anything to the story of the activity I observed?

 



#2 Bob Hudson

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Posted 01 September 2018 - 09:20 AM

I looked at records for three of those women and they each worked at what sound like remote outposts: Goat Island Lookout, Nash Island Light, Boon Island Lookout. It may well be that that the Navy decided those were not good postings for women in the winter. As I understand it, all WWI US Navy females were either Nurses or Yeomanettes, who did much more that just clerical work, so I would guess that they were in fact Yeoman (F) :

 

"At the beginning, it was assumed the yeomanettes would perform only office duties. The women also ended up working as mechanics, truck drivers, camouflage designers, cryptographers, telephone operators, translators, and munitions makers, among many other duties."

 

Lottie E. Purington.jpeg

 

smith.jpeg

 

wakefield.jpeg

 

 



#3 mars&thunder

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Posted 02 September 2018 - 09:02 AM

Yes, those are the records that match the ones in the Maine WWI Roster, minus the ratings listed as SC 4c. All the other women in the Maine roster are called out with various Y1c, Y2c etc ratings, but not the specific 4 ladies I referenced earlier, and the Yeoman rated ladies have service throughout the war and do not get disenrolled in August. My lingering confusion has to do with ratings they did have (there is one case in the Maine records of an SC being later changed to a Y3C after one day of service) so I don't look on the SC ratings as mistakes. My guess (and its no more than that) is that these women were originally enrolled as cooks and later the Navy cleaned house of anyone who wasn't rated a yeoman and these women must not have had the requisite skills to work as clerks, otherwise not just give them a Yeoman rating? I think there is an interesting story hidden here but I don't know where to look for any policy statement that was behind a raft of 31 August disenrollments. I think a cook is just the sort of rating you'd want at a remote outpost, and they were probably enrolled in that specialty by some enlistment office that got it wrong and the Navy was just correcting that "mistake".



#4 MastersMate

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Posted 02 September 2018 - 06:56 PM

Ships Cook SC 4 class was the equivalent of non rated Seaman 2 class...  A possibility is that they did not have the qualifications to be rated as Yeoman, a petty officer. I'd bet the laws of the day prohibited enlisting them as Seamen or Fireman or even Landsman,  all non rated that could go to sea.. Boon Island is very remote and exposed lighthouse, have to find Goat Islans and Nash Island to check on living prospects



#5 MastersMate

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Posted 03 September 2018 - 09:00 AM

Each of those light house stations were manned by civilian Light House Service Keepers, Assistant Keepers, and their families.  If the USN set up coast lookout stations those were good locations, Each light stations was at or near the home location of each SC.  

 

The back history of the USN lookout stations would give a clue as to the dates of service. Was that lookout operation curtailed at the end of the summer of 1918 ??



#6 mars&thunder

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 02:22 AM

That's a good observation regarding the home of the SC and the duty station being the essentially the same location, and each location being a remote lookout type duty. I can imagine a scenario where the Navy is setting up these remote small lookout posts and needs a way to feed the sailors so they recruit a local woman, enlist her as a cook, and she prepares the meals. Probably lives at home, might even prepare food at home. Probably more expedient than trying to set up a contract for meals with a civilian institution at one of these remote places. This was clearly a beyond the norm sort of solution - one of the women was 57 and that's beyond the legal enlistment age. Later the Navy pursues a general administrative action to eliminate all this class of enlistee. Would love to see the paperwork trail for that decisioning process. Regardless, I think this is a neat little story, though built on a foundation of speculation, and adds an interesting footnote to the story of US women in WWI. A story that deserves further research. Since I'm not strong in Navy records research, I have no idea where to go to see what could be found.



#7 cutiger83

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 10:59 AM

There were women in the Navy in WWI who served with the Coast Guard. Since these lookout stations were operated by the Coast Guard, it is very likely these women served with the USCG. I have been trying to find a Coast Guard rank of SC. I wonder if they were the rank of Ship's Clerk.

I am still looking for definitive answers.

Kat

#8 MastersMate

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 12:11 PM

The CG didn't have a rating comparable to ships cook 4th class, just Seaman and Ordinary Seaman during WW 1.  The Coast Guard cook was the equivalent of the USN Ships Cook 2nd class

 

CG women were in the Ships Writer or Yeoman rating. I believe the CG referred to them as Yeomanettes..  The first woman enrolled in the CG, mid Jan 1918, was recruited and rated as an Electrician 3rd class (Radioman) and served at CGHQ in Jan 1918..

 

The light houses were operated by the civilian US Lighthouse Service and had civilian crews.. Looking at those listed locations they would have been ideal sites for the USN to add additional lookout tower and crew quarters. The supply line for the light keepers was in place and the addition of additional USN personnel could have been easily managed..

 

The coastal Lifeboat Stations also performed lookout duties but were manned and operated by the Coast Guard. They had full time male crews..

 

This has the makings of a good bit of WW 1, US Naval Reserve Force history that has a current blank space..



#9 cutiger83

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 12:27 PM

The term "yeomanettes" was used by the Navy not the USCG. From what I have found the first women in the Coast Guard were twin sisters, Genevieve and Lucille Baker, of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve.

I do wonder if the SC stood for Ship's Clerk rather than Ship's Cook. I have found where these women served in clerical positions not as cooks.

This does make for a very interesting research project. I am still looking for answers.

Kat

#10 MastersMate

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 01:00 PM

The two sisters were part of the Naval Reserve serving with the CG and were referred to as yeomanettes, that is well documented.  From everything I have tracked down concerning WW 1 CG enlisted ratings and specialties there was no SC either ships cook or ships clerk. For enlisted CG there was a rating of Ships Writer and Yeoman. Both basically the same, with the Yeoman needing stenographer expertise..

 

The date of the first woman enrolled (enlisted) in the Coast Guard is January 1918. She was enlisted as an Electrician 3rd class (radioman).  The article may appear a bit bulrred, best copy I can find..

 

 

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  • First CG woman.jpg


#11 cutiger83

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 01:47 PM

I should have clarified that the ship's clerk rating that I found was in the Navy not the USCG. I will try to find where I saw that but I have been searching a lot. I have not found anything stating these women were cooks. I did not find that they were definitively ship's clerks or ship's cooks so this is all speculation at this point. I have seen both the twins and Hubbard listed as the first women who joined so not sure which one is correct. I looked at the USCG history website and could not find either names. I will look closer later.

this is all very interesting.

#12 MastersMate

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Posted 04 September 2018 - 08:24 PM

A long and probably boring USN Manual concerning the regulations for the Naval Reserve in 1918.  The section on enlistments and class 4 personnel may give some clues..

 

https://babel.hathit...seq=10;size=125



#13 mars&thunder

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 06:59 AM

I exchanged an email with Ellen J. Henry who is the curator of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum. She is author of a book entitled The Lighthouse Service and the Great War that's for sale at the museum shop/online. The Lighthouse Service came under control of the Navy during wartime. Navy personnel (usually signalmen and electricians) were stationed at most lighthouses (usually 3 to 6 personnel). They were responsible for their own food in many cases, and received a dollar a day for that purpose. She was not aware of arrangements involving enlisted female cooks - her research was typically more at the policy level than personnel related so she could not respond to my specific question.

 

I was wondering about the name of some of the duty stations these cooks are noted as serving at - specifically the use of the term "lookout" as in Boon Island Lookout. It avoids the use of the term lighthouse. Does that imply a post (in the sense of just a single building perhaps) was set on the mainland to communicate to the navy personnel on the island where the lighthouse was situated? Part of the book referenced earlier is about Navy efforts to set up radio and telephone communications with many of these lighthouses (communications which did not exist prior to the war). If so, another body of sailors that needed mess support, and another rationale for female cooks SC 4c.

 

I am enjoying the conversation about women and the coast guard. I am learning a lot so everybody keep talking.

 

I read the regulation MastersMate sent a link to. It is an Oct 1 1918 dated regulation. At that point, it mentions women only in terms of Nurses or Yeomen in the Naval Reserve. For general purposes, it lists those ratings that can be assigned upon first enrollment into one of the different categories of Naval Reserve and one is Ships Cook 4c (which would appear to apply only to men at this point in Oct 1 1918). I doubt that an earlier rev of the regulation would clear things up - the Navy was making stuff up as they went along with regard to women in the service in my opinion, which in my mind certainly makes it possible if not probable that a few ladies were enrolled as ships cook for specific limited cases revealed in the Maine Roster. A few other states rosters are online - I may dig into one of them to see if I can find a comparable situation. Florida springs to mind - lots of lighthouses there and not so many records as to make it impossible to search in any depth.



#14 MastersMate

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 08:35 AM

More information concerning the establishment of the Naval Reserve, est. the different classes of the Naval Reserve.  May give more background..

 

 https://babel.hathit...iew=1up;seq=458

 

In particular page 383 onward initial estab. of a Naval Reserve

 

page 440 onward 1916 update of naval reserve classes of service..

 

An article in a July 1972 edition of ALL HANDS magazine describes formation of the YN(F) force and in particular notes a determination by the Sec of the Navy, that nothing in the Reserve Act prohibits women from serving..



#15 Bob Hudson

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 08:50 AM

Boon Island Lookout shows up in one reference on fold3.com. Notice the date this reserve sailor left Boon Island Lookout: it's the same date those women departed their jobs. I wonder if by that time they decided they didn't need as many lookouts for German ships and subs?

 

boon.jpeg



#16 Bob Hudson

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 10:29 AM

I have found a couple of brief mentions of the WWI Naval Reserve lookout stations on coastal islands and points, fo instance, Baker's Island:

 

"During World War I, a Naval Reserve unit was stationed on the island to keep watch for German submarines. The men were quartered in a house near the light station, and, later, in the former schoolhouse on the station grounds."

 

Then I found this article that explains how the Navy took over the light stations and Lighthouse Service personnel, facilities and vessels became official US Navy property.  

 

Click the image to read the long article (which mentions each Navy lookout station was self-contained with their own cook).

 

light1.jpeg



#17 Bob Hudson

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 01:11 PM

I found out that Lottie Purington and Mary Eakefield were the wives of lighthouse keepers. Nothing yet on the other two.

 

It was very easy to enlist a Yeoman (F) - sign a paper, have the doctor look you over and and no boot camp was required, so when the Navy absorbed the Lighhouse Service for the duration it would have made sense to enlist the keeper's wives as cooks. 

 

For muster roll purposes it would have been easier to list them as SC's since that made it clear what their job was. There was a problem with informal names for the "Yeomanettes" so using technically incorrect terms seems very plausible:

 

unofficial.jpeg

 

I found a nice long account of Yeoman (F) service from a woman who worked at the Navy Department in Washington alongside hundreds of civilian clerks. The women sailors hated their uniforms and discovered if they dressed like the civilians at work no one cared.

 

 



#18 Bob Hudson

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 01:25 PM

Mary E. Robinson was also a lightkeeper's wife.



#19 MastersMate

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Posted 05 September 2018 - 04:01 PM

The reports of the Lighthouse Service have some info concerning the USN.. About two thirds down this listing of reports is the one for 1918.  First chapters have some info..

 

https://babel.hathit...eq=759;size=125



#20 mars&thunder

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 05:52 AM

Wow - great sleuthing Bob. I was thinking last night after reading the Naval Personnel Lighthouse article that you posted a link to that these ladies might be related to the lighthouse folks somehow and was going to dig into that angle today and you beat me to it. I think that pretty much answers my original question - the Navy enrolled a number of lighthouse keepers wives as cooks for the Navy Personnel that were assigned to lighthouse duty at remote locations. At the end of August 1918 they released all these ladies (disenrolled) for reasons unknown (some policy change no doubt) and the record Bob found referencing a sailor at the Boon Island Lookout would suggest a more general shuffle was driving the Aug 31 date.  Would be interesting to know more about that decision. I wonder if these ladies qualified for Victory Medals? Looks like we've uncovered a little known aspect of women in the world war that to my knowledge has not been documented previously. Great back and forth to all involved. The enrollment of these ladies in the Naval Reserve was an official thing - they even had serial numbers - so this wasn't an unofficial or under the table sort of but not quite real we were just kidding and we'll just pretend sort of event. From what I'm reading, these were really Navy personnel.

 

I spent yesterday looking at Florida Naval service record cards trying to find a similar situation. Found a slew of ships cooks but none appeared to be women (the cards don't document sex so you have to make a decision based on name primarily). Lots of Yeomen (Female), 5 Navy nurses, but nothing that aids in our lighthouse discussion.

 

I read the LightHouse Service Reports MastersMate gave a link to. Good background on the Lighthouse service, not too much specifically about our ongoing discussion but it did confirm to me that we are talking about the First District when it comes to lighthouse organizations where these ships cooks worked.



#21 MastersMate

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 07:26 AM

From an economic point, the enlisting as ships cook 4th class was a benefit for the enlistees. The Keeper income was about $700 per year.  The Ships Cook 4th class WW1 pay was $30 a month. A good little boost to the family income during the war..



#22 Bob Hudson

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 07:39 AM

By the way, the info on being married to keepers came from the 1920 and 1930 Federal Census.

 

I don't know if I posted a link to it, but somewhere I read that these and women enlisted at Yeoman (F) were in fact eligible for the WWI Victory Medal. At least one of the four discussed here had the Navy service listed on her gravestone:

 

minniegrave.jpeg

 

 



#23 mars&thunder

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 02:07 PM

And if I am reading the tombstone right, she is listed as an SC4! The yeomen (F) were eligible for Victory medals. I would assume that these ships cooks were also, except I don't know if being disenrolled blew that up. They weren't disenrolled for anything they did - for convenience of the service no doubt, but I'm not sure if that had any effect on qualifying for the victory medal. Your service had to be "honorable" to qualify, and I don't know what the Navy thought about somebody who was disenrolled. I would hope that didn't count against them, but I just don't know. Sometimes people were disenrolled for not so honorable reasons.



#24 MastersMate

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 02:37 PM

Navy criteria for the Victory Medal

 

https://www.history....tory-medal.html



#25 Bob Hudson

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 04:39 PM



And if I am reading the tombstone right, she is listed as an SC4! 

 

I hadn't noticed that before, but sure enough it's there:

 

sc4.jpeg




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