On this day in Arlington history: September 24, 1881: Julia Rhinehart (Powell) is born. Julia will become one of the first women to enlist in the US military during World War I. In 1920, she and her husband, William Powell, bought what would become the Ball-Sellers House and she lived there for the rest of her life.
Julia was the oldest daughter among nine children born to farmer Isaac Newton Rhinehart and his wife Victoria Elizabeth in Linville VA, small town a few miles north of Harrisonburg. According to the 1910 census: Julia was living in Washington, DC on 1440 Clifton St. NW Washington where she was working as a maid to a middle class family who had two children and a cook. Glencarlyn records show that sometime in the mid 19-teens Julia was boarding in a home in Glencarlyn and was working as a government clerk.
Glencarlyn was a new neighborhood in what was then Alexandria County. It had just been established in 1887 when the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) railroad line was built. People came out of DC to the country for day trips, eventually bought summer homes to visit on holidays and weekends, and then eventually bought to live there. Like many, Julia commuted to work in DC to her government clerk job.
After the US entered the First World War in April 1917, Julia heard the call to duty. As in wars before and since, women were called upon to work to help free men to serve on the front lines. Posters like this one probably helped make Julia take service to her country one step further than most women. She enlisted in the Navy and was one of the first women allowed to do so. She became a Yeoman (F). Julia was inducted into the service at the Washington Navy Yard on August 30, 1918. She was one month shy of being 37 years old - which was old by comparison with most of the other women. Julia was described on her medical record as 5'4", 127 pounds, brown hair, hazel eyes, and with "ruddy" complexion. Her occupation was as a clerk and dressmaker.
She was on active duty from September 3, 1918 to July 31, 1919 (the final parade). Her rank at discharge was Yeoman 2nd class. Julia was one of 11,275 yeomanettes. She is among the women pictured here who were presented for inspection on the National Mall. Julia was assigned to the USS Triton, a tugboat, a steam powered, steel-hulled tug that operated out of the Washington, DC Navy Yard. The Triton steamed up and down the Potomac River to the Naval Proving Grounds and Powder Factory, pushing barges loaded with materials for producing gunpowder. It is unknown if Julia may not have seen or stepped onto her decks, but for naval policy, this was her assigned ship. Julia and none of her yeoman (f) colleagues ever saw combat.
The military career span of Julia and most of the Yeomen (F) turned out to be brief. The war ended November 11, 1918. Even though Julia signed up for four years. She was kept on inactive status until her enlistment expired, receiving a retainer of $1 a month. When Julia was discharged, she got $60 and a War Service Certificate.
Julia Rhinehart met William Powell while living in Glencarlyn. He grew up there. They were married on December 5, 1920 and bought the house now located at 5620 3rd Street, South. Julia grew vegetables and had a reputation as a great cook. Julia worked at the Commerce Department commuting on the rail line. In 1932, her brother and his wife were killed in an automobile accident in the mid-west and their daughter, Marion Rhinehart came to live with Julia and Will Powell.
Julia died on January 9, 1957, she was buried at Arlington National Cemetery under the right of her army veteran husband, William Powell. But Julia, as a veteran in her own right did not have her own gravestone. Her niece and the Arlington Historical Society launched a search for her records to prove Julia’s military veteran status. In 2000 with help from Sen. John Warner’s office, Julia received her own headstone in the Arlington National Cemetery. (excerpted from the Arlington Historical Magazine, 2000)