Yeoman (F) Uniform

Physical Description
"Norfolk"-style jacket of navy blue with gold buttons and navy 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. 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 designer, and recruiting agent. 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.
Howalt, Gertrude S. French
associated place
United States
Physical Description
wool (overall material)
metal (buttons material)
overall: 31 in x 17 in x 20 in; 78.74 cm x 43.18 cm x 50.8 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gertrude S. French Howalt
related event
World War I
The Emergence of Modern America
See more items in
Armed Forces History: Armed Forces History, Naval
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object