Say what?!!! I’d never heard the word “Yeomanette” before today. But, with highway projects, lane closures, and the Pride Parade in Seattle today, my husband and I decided to take the ferry home from our weekend getaway, rather than driving. And that set me off on a whole new research adventure. As we pulled into the ferry waiting area in Bremerton we noticed the “Navy Museum” right next door. Neither of us had ever been and we had a few minutes to kill before the boat arrived.
It’s a charming little museum, with an exhibit on aircraft carriers on the second floor and an exhibit about the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on the ground floor. And that’s where I learned a new word, "Yeomanettes." During World War I, the shipyard’s workforce grew from 1,500 in 1916 to over 6,500 by late 1918. Many of these new hires were women who worked in offices as clerical personnel as well as in the shops and docks. These Yeomanettes “filled navy clerical shortages and received the same pay as their male predecessors.”
As part of the exhibit, the museum has displayed the uniform of Gertrude (McGowan) Madden, along with a group photo of Gertrude and a couple dozen of her colleagues. I admit I the type of genealogist who, when she sees a person’s name on an exhibit, I am compelled to then do some sort of research. Who was she? Where was she from? What can I find?
And true to my addiction, I came home and set to work to discover a little about Yeomanette Gertrude McGowan. She was the middle of three daughters and a son of Irish immigrant Michael McGowan and his wife, Mary. On the 1920 census, Gertrude, a typist, and her older sister, Elizabeth, a clerk, both worked at the navy yard, along with their father who was an inspector there.  Gertrude lived to the ripe old age of 95. Quite something.
As I researched her more, I found a BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem) death file indicating Gertrude indeed enlisted in the Navy 19 October 1917 and was discharged 2 August 1919. I suspect she wore this uniform with pride. Thank you for your service, Gertrude.
Any other fellow geeks out there compelled to research those random folks you find on your travels? I’d love to hear your story. Reply in the comments below.
 Text of exhibit at the Navy Museum, Bremerton, Washington. 25 June 2017
 "United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHFJ-RPW : accessed 26 June 2017), Gertrude Mcgowan in household of Michiel Mcgowan, Bremerton Ward 4, Kitsap, Washington, United States; citing ED 52, sheet 12A, line 6, family 273, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 1931; FHL microfilm 1,821,931.
 Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. Number: 348-30-0914; Issue State: Illinois; Issue Date: 1953-1955. Accessed 25 June 2017
 Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.