Beginning in 1908, when Congress authorized a female Nurse Corps of the United States Navy, women began to officially serve their country in times of both war and peace. Since then, whether they are civilians, enlisted personnel, or Naval officers, the women of Naval Station Great Lakes have etched their places into the history of this base through both word and action. One of these women is known as the “Mother of Naval Station Great Lakes. Jeanette Whitton Moffett was the wife of Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, commander of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station from 1914 to 1918. She reported to Great Lakes with her husband in September of 1914. Initially, she settled into a ladylike social life and focused her attentions on raising her 6 children, but soon found other outlets for her energies.
Along with her regular duties of hosting local celebrities and international dignitaries, Jeanette also worked to help recruits ease into their new lives as Sailors and to draw attention to Great Lakes during the war. She was the first to host receptions that brought both officers and enlisted men together, she arranged weekend parties and dances for enlisted sailors at her home, and was President of the Illinois Auxiliary of the Navy Relief Society, which was an agency that provided financial aid to the families and dependents of officers and enlisted men. One story, related in the June 1918 edition of the Ladies Home Journal, tells of Jeannette taking a personal interest in a homesick sailor from Arkansas. She invited him into her home, helped him write a letter to his mother, and arranged for a ten-day leave for him to visit his family after he completed his training. She was held in high regard amongst the recruits for her War-Camp hospitality and, in recognition of Jeannette’s work on their behalf, the Great Lakes recruits presented her with a silver tea service on Christmas of 1917. Sadly, during her time at Great Lakes, she lost one of her infant sons, who is now interred at the Great Lakes Naval Cemetery.
You can learn more about how women contributed to the success of Naval Station Great Lakes and the United States Navy by attending the National Museum of the American Sailor’s free Speaker’s Bureau lecture titled “Great Lakes, Great Women.” For more information on our lectures visit our Speaker’s Bureau page on our website.