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The First Woman Enlisted in the United States Armed Forces 106 Years Ago Today

Updated: Mar 7

In the spring of 1917, the United States began preparing for the inevitability of war. However, men were not enlisting in sufficient numbers.

On March 19, 1917, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels determined that women could be enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force and issued an order authorizing their enlistment.

On March 21, 1917, Loretta Perfectus Walsh became America's first official enlisted woman when she joined the Navy.

Women had actually served in the United States military as nurses since 1901. However, despite their uniforms, Army and Navy nurses were civilian employees with few benefits. For example, women lacked "relative ranks" and insignia, retirement pension, and disability pension if injured in the line of duty.

However, Loretta, serving in a clerical position, had the enlisted rank as a Yeoman (F), commonly referred to as "Yeomanettes". As a non-nurse, Walsh was the first of 13,000 eventual World War I Yeoman females who were entitled to receive the same benefits and responsibilities as men, including identical pay. - US Department of Defense & Other Sources

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