Navy World War I

Loretta Walsh: I’m in the Navy Now!

March 21, 2019
Loretta Perfectus Walsh
Loretta Perfectus Walsh
*Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Loretta Walsh was the first female inducted into the United States Navy. Her story is not only inspiring, it is empowering; as she paved the way for women to join the military before they even had the right to vote

Miss Walsh was born 22 April 1896 in Olyphant, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, the daughter of James J.  and Catherine [Cummings] Walsh. Described as spunky and ambitious, Loretta enlisted as a Yeoman(F) and was inducted on 21 March 1917, with a rank of Chief Yeoman; thus serving as the first active-duty woman to serve in the Armed Forces and the first female Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.

Across the country, newspaper headlines hailed the arrival of the first active-duty female in the Armed Forces.

Newspaper Headlines
Newspaper Headlines

Although women had been serving as nurses in the military, those roles were still considered civilian positions. Thus Loretta Walsh paved the way for women to receive the same benefits as men serving in the Armed Forces. 

Women followed Walsh’s lead and  joined the Navy in record numbers. The Yeomanettes served primarily in clerical positions, and provided valuable skills to the war effort. 

To learn more about Loretta’s life after the war, join me for part two.

Top Photo: Walsh, Loretta P.  Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress

Newspaper Headlines
Top left: “Bits of Pictorial News Gleaned at Home and Abroad.” The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 13 May 1917, p: 59; Web. 14 Dec 2018. 
Top right: Associated Press. “First Woman Enlists in Navy.” The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) 22 March 1917, p: 1, col: 1; Web. 14 Dec 2018.
Bottom left: “Philadelphia Woman Enlists In The Navy.” The New York Times (New York, New York), 22 March 1917, p: 2, col: 2; Web. 14 Dec 2018.
Bottom right: “Philadelphia Girl is First Woman to Enlist in United States Navy.” Xenia Daily Gazette (Xenia, Ohio) 24 March 1917, p: 1, col: 3; Web. 14 Dec 2018.

Navy Recruitment Poster
Christy, Howard Chandler, Artist. Gee!! I wish I were a man, I’d join the Navy Be a man and do it – United States Navy recruiting station / / Howard Chandler Christy. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.

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