Loretta Perfectus Walsh Historical Marker
Loretta Perfectus Walsh was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 22, 1896. Her rise to fame was being the first woman to enlist in the Navy and become active-duty as well as being the first woman to be allowed into any of the Unites States Military forces. She was given the title of Chief Yeoman and was the first woman to do so in the Navy. She became an image for women to enlist in the armed forces. Her historical Marker is located in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, in Lackawanna County near where she grew up. The marker is at the intersection of West Lackawanna Avenue (State Highway 347) and Willow Avenue.
Backstory and Context
Loretta Perfectus Walsh was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 22, 1896. She became the first woman to enlist in the Unites States Navy and she was the first woman to become active-duty as well as being the first woman to be allowed into any of the United States military forces. With her many accomplishments she is going to be an influence for young women around the world, not only in the United States. Her story really embodies what it means to empower yourself and your peers to dream big and do what you want. She made a career for herself in the military in a time when women weren’t even being considered for positions in the armed forces. She is an important figure in military history for being a first just as Jackie Robinson is so important in sports history for being the first African American to play baseball professionally. By knowing her history we can all be inspired to make history in our own ways just as she did on a larger scale.
Although there is almost no information about her childhood we can get an idea of how she lived as a female judging by the time period she lived in. During this time females were very deprived of their rights as the right to vote for women was not given to them until 1920, 24 years after she was born. As a young adult she was not given the basic rights that women today are given. Women of that time were assumed to be a housewife and take care of the children while the man of the house went to work. She was not going to have this and wanted to define what it meant to be a woman as they are today. She was extremely brave and was an icon of that time to all women, young and old. Ultimately her decision was also guided by the decisions that were made leading up to the war. She was angered by these decisions and felt the need to make a difference in the war by joining the forces just as the men were.
World War 1 started in 1914 after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and lasted until 1918, under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. This war was a battle fought between the Central Powers, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, and the Allied Powers, including Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States. This war was one of the most destructive wars to date because of the new forms of warfare which included trench warfare and technological warfare. Soldiers who fought in the trenches saw the most action and every second they were there became harder and harder to endure. Soldiers would always lose limbs and have to be on the lookout for grenades and other explosives. It took major guts from her and the other women who enlisted to go out there without being forced to fight for our country and make a difference in the world. By the end of the war over 16 million people were dead, including civilians. Loretta made it out alive but would fall to a deadly influenza and tuberculosis.
Loretta Perfectus Walsh died on August 6, 1925 in Olyphant Pennsylvania from influenza and tuberculosis. She is buried there and her historical marker is also located there on West Lackawanna Avenue (State Highway 347) at Willow Avenue. Her marker reads, “Recognized as the first woman to enlist in the U.S. Navy--on March 21, 1917, sixteen days before the nation entered WWI. As a Chief Yeoman (F), she served in Philadelphia; was discharged 1919. Born (1896) and raised in Olyphant; died in 1925.” Although this is a short gesture to her service and life it really gives us a major detail that makes her who she was. She was historical, she made a decision to fight for our country and become the first woman to enlist in the armed forces. The decisions she made will forever be engraved not only in this sign, but also in time. She is an inspiration to everyone, not only women, because of her bravery and determination.
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