Dorothy Veronica Ryan

No. 13155 Dorothy Veronica Ryan

Photograph of Dorothy V Ryan. Contained in an album at the Dorchester Historical Society of about 150 photos kept by Nathaniel R. Perkins, MD, who examined thousands of men who were going into the war, 1914-1918. Given by Mrs N. R. Perkins in accordance with instructions from her late husband, Dr. Nathaniel P. Perkins of 1122 Adams St, Dorchester. Index catalog has entries for the individuals.

Dorothy V Ryan ? Charlestown Navy Yard Clerk for a time in office. District 21 City of Boston

Dorothy Veronica Ryan.  Written by Camille Arbogast.

Dorothy Veronica Ryan was born on September 6, 1899, at 43 Milton Avenue in the Cedar Grove section of Dorchester. Her father, Edward Augustine Ryan, born in Boston, was a city police officer. Her mother, Anna M. (Mahoney), known as Annie, was born in Dorchester, baptized at Saint Gregory’s Church in Lower Mills, and grew up on Washington Street. Edward and Annie were married in 1896 in Boston. They also had three sons: Edward, Jr. born in 1897, Charles in 1902, and Henry in 1906.

In 1900, Edward was promoted from reserve officer to Patrolman in Division 5, based at 21 East Dedham Street in the South End, making $1,200 a year. He became a sergeant in 1912. By 1907, the family had moved to 14 Thetford Avenue. Dorothy attended the Roger Wolcott School at the corner of Norfolk and Morton Streets. In 1917, she graduated from Dorchester High School, in what was then the school’s largest graduating class. A family photo shows Dorothy in a Red Cross nurse uniform; it is possible that she was in the Red Cross around this time.

During the First World War, Dorothy served in the United States Naval Reserve Force as a Yeoman (F) First Class. Called “Yeomanettes,” female Yeomen were officially enlisted in the Navy and received the same rate of pay as men. The Naval Act of 1916 included a line permitting the enlistment of “all persons who may be capable of performing special useful service for coastal defense.” The non-gendered language was interpreted to include women and they were recruited beginning in March 1917. By the end of the war there were over 11,000 female Yeomen. They most often served in clerical roles, though some held specialized positions.

Dorothy enrolled in the Navy on July 30, 1918. Female Yeomen joined for a four-year-term. On his notecard for Dorothy V. Ryan, Dr. Perkins noted that Dorothy served in the Charlestown Navy Yard and was a “clerk for a time in office.” She probably lived at home during her service, as the Navy did not have female barracks and women had to make their own living arrangements. Generally, they were assigned work in their home communities.

There was also no official female uniform, so Dorothy probably made or purchased the outfit she wears in the Perkins collections photo. The Navy specified women wear a white or blue single breasted jacket, a skirt with a hem four inches above the ankle, and a brimmed hat. The female Yeoman was responsible for acquiring these items herself.

The female Yeomen were placed on inactive duty in July 1919. Dorothy still worked as a stenographer in the Navy Yard in 1920, according to the census; many female Yeomen were temporarily appointed to Civil Service jobs in their previous workplaces while on inactive status. Dorothy was discharged on July 19, 1920.

On July 18, 1923, she married 32-year-old Alfred Alonzo Shea, a public accountant with Wolper, Shea, and Company. Born in Boston and raised in Milton, he was a graduate of Boston University, where he studied in the College of Business Administration. During the war, he, too, served in the Navy. Initially, he was a Chief Yeoman in the coast inspection service, stationed in Bath, Maine. In October 1917, he received a commission as an Assistant Paymaster, with a rank of Ensign, and was transferred to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Alfred had also been Dorothy’s neighbor; in 1918, he lived at 27 Thetford Avenue. Dorothy and Alfred were married by Reverend Stephen P. Moran of Saint Matthew’s Church on Stanton Street. Directly following their marriage, they embarked on a honeymoon to Alberta, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego. When they returned they lived in the Back Bay, at 19 Queensbury Street.

After her marriage, Dorothy was a homemaker. She and Alfred had two children, Dorothy Anna born in 1924 and Joseph Alfred in 1932. In 1930, the family lived at 105 Russet Road in West Roxbury. They moved to East Side Parkway in Newtonville in 1933. In 1937, they purchased 57 Melrose Avenue in Needham.

Alfred died in 1951. The Melrose Avenue house was sold in 1968. By the early 1970s, both of Dorothy’s children lived in California and it is possible she moved there, as well. Dorothy died in Upland, California, on March 10, 1971. She was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in West Roxbury.


Birth Record, Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts;

Family Tree, including family photos;

Officials and Employees of the City of Boston and County of Suffolk with Their Residences, Compensation, Etc. Boston, 1907: 82;

Seventh Annual report of the Police Commissioner for the City of Boston, Year Ending November 30 1912. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co, State Printers, 1913;

US Federal Census, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940;

“Oliver Wendell Holmes School the Leader in Numbers,” Boston Globe, 19 June 1913: 7;

“Dorchester High School Graduates Record Class,” Boston Globe, 22 June 1917; 8

“United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940,” Military Service, NARA microfilm publication 76193916 St. Louis: National Archives and Records Administration, 1985;

“World War I era Yeomen (F),” Naval History and Heritage Command, <—special-topics/women-in-the-navy/world-war-i-era-yeomen–f–.htm>l

Patch, Nathaniel. “The Story of the Female Yeomen during the First World War,” Prologue Magazine, Fall 2006, Vol. 38, No. 3, The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, <>

“Massachusetts Marriages, 1841-1915,” Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States, State Archives, Boston;

“Dorchester District,” Boston Globe, 19 July 1923: 8;

“Alfred A. Shea Made an Assistant Paymaster,” Boston Globe, 16 October 1917: 5;

Boston directories, various years;

Deed, Book 2142, page487, dated 5 May 1937, Norfolk County Registry of Deeds;

Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) Death File, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs;

State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics;

“Deaths,” Boston Globe, 13 March 1971: 22;



Posted on

April 10, 2022

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