Arlington Historical Society
On this day in Arlington history: August 30, 1918, Julia K. Rhinehart was inducted as a yeoman (f) for female, in the US Navy. There were only 11,275 Navy female yeomen, sometimes referred to as yeomanettes, who helped break the gender wall in the military. Julie (Rhinehart) Powell, future owner of the Ball-Sellers House with her husband, Bill was one of them.
In March 1917, the US Navy was ordered to start recruiting women into the Naval Reserve to be clerks, radio electricians, accountants, and factory workers to free men for active duty. Women came from around the country, but the largest contingent was from the Washington area.
When she was inducted, Julia was one month shy of her 37th birthday—old by comparison to most of the other women who were mostly between 19 and 21 years old. Julia was from Rockingham County, Virginia and had moved to Washington a few years earlier. She worked as a dressmaker and clerk.
These first female naval personnel worked six days a week and often late at night and on Sundays as switch board operators, cable decoders, and translators. None ever saw combat and only a few went overseas. In some cases, some were assigned to ships along the coast for administrative duties and Julia was assigned to a tugboat, the USS Triton. The tug patrolled the Potomac to the Naval Proving Grounds and Powder Factory, pushing barges loaded with materials for producing gunpowder.
Julia was on active duty from September 3, 1918 to July 31, 1919. Although recruited for a four year stint, World War I ended on November 11, 1918 and she, along with other yeomen (f), were kept on inactive status until their enlistments expired receiving a retainer of $1 a month. She was discharged from the Navy as a Yeoman 2nd class on February 13, 1920. She died in 1957 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Section 31, Lot 5703. (see photo)