Mary Lopes was a Portsmouth girl who volunteered for service during World War I. Many Portsmouth women helped with the war effort. As I researched the local suffragists I learned that many women aided the cause with clerical duties or providing hospitality for troops. Mary went further, she enlisted in the military service.

The Naval Reserve Act of 1916 permitted qualified “persons” for service and the Secretary of the Navy began enlisting women as “Yeoman (F). Over 11,000 women answered the call. They served in a variety of jobs: clerical, bookkeeping, inventory control, telephone operators, radio operators, pharmacists, photographers, torpedo assemblers and other positions. The women did not go to boot camp, but they were in uniform. They had some of the same responsibilities and benefits as the men. Like the men they earned about $28 a month. They were treated as veterans after the war.

What do we know about Mary? Her parents were Manuel Lopes and Georgina Lopes. Their farm seemed to be on Middle Road close to School House Lane but there are listings for East Main Road also. In 1918 newspaper clippings show she won the dance contest at the Newport County Fair. The town directory of 1919 lists her as a “Yeowoman” in the United States Navy and living at home.

After the war the women were quickly released from service, but Mary stayed very active in the Portsmouth Post 18 of the American Legion. She was later Post Commander of the Rhode Island Women’s American Legion Post. Mary even returned to service as a nurses’ aide with the American Red Cross during World War II.

Mary married Alfred Clark and went on to live in East Providence until her death. When she died in 1946 she received full military honors.