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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Golden Fourteen: Black Female Navy Members in WWI

Did you know that in World War I the United States had uniformed Black Females in the armed forces? Neither did I. The United States Navy had the distinction of having fourteen uniformed African American female Yeoman. Navy Yeomen serve as office managers and perform other various clerical and administrative duties. (  Kelly Miller, Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C., wrote a seminal book in 1919 entitled,  The History of The World War for Human Rights.

The Golden Fourteen worked under the tutelage of John T. Risher during World War One. Risher was a Civil Servant in D.C. in the Navy Department. Risher's job was to keep an accurate account and track of deployed kinsman in the branch of the armed forces. This was critical because of the increased number of servicemen during war time.

According to Joseph Risher:

The women were all cool, clear-headed and well-poised, evincing at all times in the language of a white chief yeoman: a tidiness and appropriate demeanor both on and off duty which the girls of the white race might do well to emulate.

Golden Fourteen pictured in photo A.
 Source: This site has further information on the subjects of photo B.

Regretfully,  The Golden Fourteen received scant recognition during their lifetime. They consisted of:

  1.  Armelda H. Greene of MS
  2.  Pocahontas A. Jackson of MS
  3.  Catherine E. Finch of MS
  4.  Fannie A. Foote of TX
  5.  Ruth A. Wellborn of DC
  6.  Olga F. Jones of DC
  7.  Sarah Davis of MD
  8.  Sarah E. Howard of MS
  9.  Marie E. Mitchell of DC
  10.  Annie G. Smallwood of DC
  11.  Maude C. Williams of TX
  12.  Caroll E Washington of MS
  13.  Joseph (sic) B Washington of MS
  14.  Inez B. McIntosh of MS

Listed above is the grandmother of the late Commerce Secretary of  Ronald H. Brown*, Ruth Wellborn, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Some sources listed a higher number of Negro Yeoman. In the article entitled " Milestones of Women in the US Navy"" the number listed is 24 African American Women. However, the names of the enlisted females are omitted. From this site:

It was also noted that the work of this section has proven highly efficient and satisfactory, as the plans in vogue there under its modern management are both scientific and accurate. Many of the superior officials have scrutinized the experiment very closely and are a unit in the sincerity of their admiration of its success and effectiveness. Source:

In other words, The Golden Fourteen were a well oiled machine!

*Ron Brown served as Commerce Secretary during the Clinton Administration and was an Army Officer, chief lobbyist for the National Urban League, law partner at a prestigious firm and elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee before his tragic plane crash in 1996. For further reading see, Holmes, Steven. Ron Brown: An Uncommon Life: New York,  John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

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