On April 16, 1917, the Home Telephone Company in Medford, Ore., printed a notice asking patrons to be patient as “one half of the operating force is gone to Naval Reserve duty at the Puget Sound navy yard.” 

Seventeen Southern Oregon women, including 10 who worked for the telephone company, had enlisted in the Navy the previous month. They were the first wave of women to join the regular U.S. military service, with the same rights, ranks, and responsibilities as men. Referred to as Yeomanettes, they handled clerical tasks of the Navy, including telephone exchanges. 

The women were between 17 and 36 years old. Several were married. Recruits included star basketball players from Medford High School, a public stenographer and a recent raffle winner of a Ford automobile. Even an 80-year old woman, who took her granddaughter to the recruiting station, tried to volunteer. 

On Sunday evening, April 15, only one week after the United States declared war on Germany, a large crowd gathered at the Medford Railway Station to say farewell to 16 Yeomanettes. One of the women had an emergency appendectomy and had to wait a few weeks before joining her sisters in service.

Source: Waldron, Sue, “Yeomanettes: Jackson County’s Blue Star Daughters”, Table Rock Sentinel, March/April, 1990, p. 2.

As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org. As It Was stories and photos are selected by Southern Oregon Historical Society staff and volunteers. This effort, plus other services provided by local historical societies, may be discontinued due to funding constraints if Ballot Measure 15-164 fails in November.