1917 First Women Yeomans Battalion Flag

Value (2009) | $1,500 Auction$2,500 Auction
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GUEST:
My first tour in the Navy, I was ensign, I went to my first command, the building we were in they were renovating, so they called us and said, "You have some trash here, come get rid of it." I sent my sailors over to throw the stuff away. They saw this flag, it says "women" on it, I'm a woman, so they brought it to me. (chuckling) And I carted it around for the rest of my 26 years in the Navy.

APPRAISER:
Do you know anything about the First Women's Yeoman Battalion?

GUEST:
No, I don't know about the battalion. I know women were in the Navy in 1917. There were 600. A year later, there was 11,000 women. And they did yeoman jobs, which is clerical work.

APPRAISER:
The yeomans were basically clerks and accountants and things like that.

GUEST:
Absolutely.

APPRAISER:
And you mentioned, in 1917, which is interesting, because at the time, the secretary of the Navy saw the term yeoman and said, "It doesn't just mean 'man.'" They needed every able-bodied person they could. So they brought the women in to do yeoman's work, which a lot of folks don't know that women were there during the First World War.

GUEST:
That's right.

APPRAISER:
And this is a First World War period flag. It's silk with handpainted emblems on it.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
The First Naval District was at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, later Boston.

GUEST:
It started in Portsmouth in 1903, went to Boston about mid-'40s.

APPRAISER:
The great thing about this flag is that it shows the kind of patriotic nature that the women must have had at the time in order to really gear them up to be a part of the service. In the center we have the U.S. Naval insignia, which is still in use today on officer's cap badges, the eagle over the shield over the crossed anchors. Now, I couldn't find out too much about the Women's Battalion either, but we still know that women were in service during the First World War and they did do a lot of yeoman's work. It may have even been done by the women themselves as something that they wanted to use to inspire the rest of the women in the battalion. Maybe they had it on base as an unofficial flag. Now, you had some concerns about the condition of this.

GUEST:
Yes, there's a lot of tears, the fringe is falling off and is it something that a museum, a Navy museum or women-in-the-military museum might be interested in having?

APPRAISER:
If you think you're going to keep it, it's worthy of conservation. If you're going to donate it, the best thing to do is really let the institution decide how to handle the conservation. Because it's going to need to be cleaned, you're going to need to address these issues where it's starting to split, because the weight of the banner itself is pulling it apart. So it depends on what you want to do. But there's no doubt that interest in women in the service has grown over the years. There'd be many institutions that would love to have this banner. In this condition, I would say it's around $1,500, maybe $2,500.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Fixed up would certainly enhance the value, but that would be a costly undertaking, so you really have to decide, do I want to own it or do I want to give it to somebody who could display it?

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
But it's a great piece, and I'm glad you brought it in.

GUEST:
Oh, thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Gary Piattoni, Inc.
Evanston, IL
Appraised value (2009)
$1,500 Auction$2,500 Auction
Event
Phoenix, AZ (August 01, 2009)
Form
Flag
Material
Cloth, Silk

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