Loretta Walsh, 1917, First Woman To Enlist In The U.s. Navy

Discussion in 'History & Geography' started by Joe Riley, Jul 25, 2023.

  1. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Supreme Member
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    "In 1917, twelve words opened the floodgates for women to serve in the military: “It does not say … anywhere that a Yeoman must be a man.” One year after the U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916 allowed qualified “persons” to enlist, history was made when 20-year-old Loretta Perfectus Walsh (1896-1925) did just that, earning herself a whole series of “firsts” in the process."

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    When Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy in 1917, that service didn’t yet have uniforms for female sailors. She served as a yeoman at the U.S. Navy Yard in Philadelphia (background photo).

    "Perfectus was the first woman to enlist in the Navy; the first American woman to serve active duty; the first woman to serve in any branch of the U.S. military in other than a nursing capacity; and the first female U.S. Navy petty officer. Until Walsh enlisted in 1917, women could serve as nurses but were otherwise limited to working as civilian employees with very few benefits." (Read More)

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    USS Constitution names cannon in honor of 1st female chief petty officer (Mar 22, 2021)


    Chief Petty Officer
    Shortly after enlisting, Walsh was sworn in as a Chief Yeoman, making her the Navy’s first female Chief Petty Officer. She served her active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and was released when World War I ended in 1918. But having enlisted for a full four-years, she remained on inactive reserve status, receiving a modest retainer pay, until the formal end of her service in 1921.

    While still in the Navy, Walsh fell victim to the 1918 flu epidemic that swept Philadelphia. She survived; but several years later, and in frail health, she contracted tuberculosis. Loretta Perfectus Walsh was just 29 years old when she died in Olyphant, PA.

    Her monument reads:

    Loretta Perfectus Walsh
    April 22, 1896 – August 6, 1925
    Woman and Patriot
    First of Those Enrolled in the United States Naval Service
    World War 1917-1919

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    Her Comrades Dedicate this Monument to Keep Alive Forever Memories of the Sacrifice and Devotion of Womanhood
     
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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2023
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  2. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Supreme Member
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  3. Cody Fousnaugh

    Cody Fousnaugh Supreme Member
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    Very, very interesting! However, there were no ladies onboard Naval ships during the Vietnam Era, when I was in. All ships had to be refitted to accommodate ladies who were stationed onboard ships.

    But, today, there are numerous Enlistee's and Officers that are women and I love it!!
     
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