Posts Tagged ‘Janet Ford’

The first war memorial in Huntington, a list of 40 men who had died during the Civil War, contains familiar old Huntington names such as Sammis, Conklin, and Brush.  The second war memorial in Huntington, created in 1923 to commemorate the 39 Huntingtonians who had died during World War I, reflects Huntington’s changing ethnic make up.  In addition to the old Huntington names, the list includes names such as Algerio, Romano, Solomoff, Sickenberger, and Tivola.  More interesting is that the list includes a woman, Janet Ford.

Huntington's World War I Memorial on Main Street.  The Memorial also serves as an entrance to the Old Burying Ground where many of Huntington Revolutionary War veterans are buried.

Huntington’s World War I Memorial on Main Street. The Memorial also serves as an entrance to the Old Burying Ground where many of Huntington’s Revolutionary War veterans are buried.

Janet Ford was a graduate of the Huntington High School class of 1909.  She and her twin sister Eleanor graduated from Smith College four years later.  Not much is known about Janet Ford.  She and her sister were involved with the Huntington Red Cross chapter.  She was prominent enough to be included in a couple of New York Times columns about the social doings in Huntington.  Her father was employed as an expert accountant with Olney & Company in New York City.  He seems to have tried his hand with farming for a while on West Neck Road in the 1890s   The family eventually purchased the house at the southwest corner of Lawrence Hill Road and Carley Avenue.  They continued to spend time in Brooklyn as well.

When the United States entered World War I, there was a need for clerical workers.   The 1916 law authorizing the creation of Naval Reserve Force did not specify that yeomen needed to be men.  Eventually, 11,275 women joined the Naval Reserve Force as yeomen.  Eighteen women from Huntington served in the military; one was Janet Ford who served as a Navy Reserve yeoman in Manhattan.  She died in January 1919—two months after the Armistice was signed but while she was still in the service.  At first the cause of death was reported as pneumonia—the same disease that had taken her father and mother 10 days apart in November and December 1918.  A later report attributed all three deaths to influenza.  The 1918 flu pandemic claimed tens of millions of lives worldwide (estimates range from 3% to 6% of the worldwide population died from the flu).  In the United States, some 500,000 to 675,000 people died.  In fact, ten times more people died in the United States from the flu than from the war.  Half of the American servicemen who died during World War I died from the flu.

Even though she died far from the battlefield and after the Armistice, Janet Ford has always been counted among those Huntingtonians who gave their lives in the War to End All Wars.

Janet Ford is the second name in the second column.

Janet Ford is the second name in the middle column.

The title of this post may be subject to dispute.  After all, 18 Huntington women served in World War I.  Janet Ford is the only one to die during her service.  I hope I can be allowed a little latitude with the claim that she was the first woman veteran.

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