Charlotte Winters, oldest American female World War I veteran, dies at 109

April 11, 2007

Charlotte Louise Berry Winters was the oldest living American female World War I veteran until her death March 27 at a nursing home near Boonsboro, Maryland. She was 109.

 

A member of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Frederick, Maryland, and a Daughter of the King, Winters was a Civil War buff who met face-to-face with the Secretary of the Navy to fight for women in the military.

Her death leaves just five known surviving American World War I veterans.

Winters was born in Washington on November 10, 1897, to Mackell and Louise Bild Berry. Her father was a haberdasher.

Winters heard about the possibility of joining the Navy two years after graduating from the Washington Business High School. The secretary of the Navy at the time, Josephus Daniels, was a proponent of women's rights who saw a loophole in the Naval Appropriations Act of 1916. The law, which created what was called the United States Naval Reserve Force, established six categories of citizens who could enlist.

Winters was among nearly 600 women who were on duty by the end of April 1917. By December 1918, there were 11,000 women in the Navy.

After her naval service, she continued to work for the Navy as a civilian in various administrative positions in Washington, until her retirement in 1953.

Winters has no immediate survivors. Her husband of 35 years, John Russell Winters, whom she met while he was working as a machinist at the Naval Gun Factory, died in 1984.

At her March 30 burial, at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland, Winters received full military honors, with a squad of seven sailors firing three rifle volleys.

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