During World War I, due to the wording of the U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916, 11,274 women were permitted to serve as Yeoman (F). The women were more familiarly known as “Yeomanettes.” Two of those Yeomanettes were Alpha Gamma Deltas from the University of Washington.
According to a report in Volume 10 of The Alpha Gamma Delta Quarterly, “The United States Navy called Hortense McClellan, ’18, and Alice Gerry, ’19, from their studies. They are among the veteran yeomanettes at the university naval training station.”
In the same volume, in a column called, “News from the Navy,” McClellan wrote:
Alice Gerry and I were the pioneer yeomanettes at the training camp, all alone among 10,000 or more men. Just imagine how wonderful it was to see ‘Irish’ Wiley dancing around when he got orders to go to sea shortly after I took over his work in the office. This thrill will always repay me for any personal dissatisfaction: the torment of a conspicuous uniform, unkind comment and treatment from an uninformed public, mud, rain, catching early boats, poor living conditions. All is forgotten when I remember that my service in the U. S. Navy has been the means of releasing a man for active duty… I would not give back my experience for anything in the world. It has meant new friends, a broader outlook upon life, self-confidence, and ambition. Lastly, let me add, fraternity teachings prepared and led me to seek the greatest war service that I was capable of fulfilling, and they have truly been a help in overcoming many difficulties.
Although the Yeomanettes wore uniforms and performed drills, they did not attend boot camp. Most of them did clerical work, including operating telephones and radios. They also assisted in recruiting stations. When the war ended the Yeomanettes were placed on inactive duty. In 1925, the Yeoman (F) loophole was closed and women could no longer serve in that capacity.
McClellan taught school in Carnation, Washington, and died in 1974. Gerry died in 1991, two weeks before her 95th birthday. Her obituary in the Seattle Times, where she is identified as Mary Alice Gerry Bramble included this information about her service, “It was shortly after enrolling in college that she joined the Navy. She served as a yeoman from 1918 to 1919, performing clerical work at the Puget Sound Training Camp in Bremerton. Although there were few women in the Navy, Mrs. Bramble felt women were treated with great respect…Every time the female sailors walked into a room, the men jumped up and saluted, treating them like petty officers.”