New Hampshire WWI Military: Yeoman Anne (Frasier) Norton of Derry, Manchester and Portsmouth NH (1893-1918)

Anne Frasier, later Mrs. Edwin Norton in her graduation dress from Pinkerton Academy, Derry NH circa 1911. Photograph courtesy Pinkerton Academy Archives. Used here with permission.

Anne “Annie” Frasier was born in East Boston MA on 10 April 1893, daughter of Charles Warren & Catherine (Walsh) Frasier. She attended East Boston schools when young. Her mother died when she was nine years old, and the family soon moved to Derry, New Hampshire where Anne graduated from Pinkerton Academy. She went on to graduate from Bryant and Stratton’s Business College.

Anne married Edwin Norton, who was also from Derry NH. They lived in Schenectady, NY and Manchester NH (and other places see obituary notes below). He enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWI and want sent to officer’s training school. They had no children, and she enlisted as a yeoman in the United States Navy. This was the first time that a branch of the U.S. military was providing enlisted women with military rank.  (Note that nurses were not included in that group).

Service of Anne F. Norton, from book, U.S. Navy Casualties, Officers and Enlisted Men 1917-1918, page 562

She was assigned to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, as a clerk and stenographer in the office of the Commandant, and was living at 104 Orchard Street in Portsmouth NH. According to her death record, she had only lived in Portsmouth for slightly less than 2 months at the time of her death. She contracted the dreaded influenza while there, and 11 days later she died from complications on 11 October 1918. Anne was only 26 years old.

U.S. Navy Reserve Force, Female Yeoman uniform, Collection of Curator Branch Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy Department Library

She was given a military funeral in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Her bearers were female yeomen, and the honor guard salute was performed by U.S. Navy sailors.  It has been said that she was the first American woman to be buried in uniform with full military honors. Her body was removed by train to her family’s plot in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, Massachusetts.

As “Ann F. Norton,” she is listed on the WWI Honor Roll in the New Hampshire State House, Concord NH. In 2011 Anne Frasier Norton was honored with inclusion on Pinkerton Academy’s Hall of Fame.  In 2013 a memorial bench was added at the state’s veteran cemetery in Boscawen NH, “the first woman in nation’s history to die while serving in the armed forces.”  As a student of history I would have to express caution at this terminology used.  Just because the U.S. Navy was the first military branch to provide rank to certain enlistees, such as Anne F. Norton, all those women who “served in the armed forces” before her service, from the American Revolution, Civil War, to the nurses in World War I” should not be excluded because an official rank was not extended to them.

–Obituaries of Anne F. Norton–

1918 newspaper clipping showing headlines of Annie Fraser Norton’s funeral.

Portsmouth Herald, October 15, 1918: “A sad and historical funeral was conducted from the Ham’s Undertaking Rooms on Market street, Sunday at 9:00 a.m. it was that of Mrs. Anne Fraser Norton, Yeowoman, second class, U.S.N.R.F., the wife of Candidate Edwin Asa Norton, National Army, Field Artillery Officers’ Training School, Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Norton was a native of Derry, N.H. and came to the Navy Yard to offer her patriotic service on August 14, 1918, shortly after Mr. Norton entered training for the National Army.  Mrs. Norton had become a trusted and potent factor in the Commandant’s Office at the Navy Yard and her services were of a high calibre and efficiency. Her few friends made during her short time in Portsmouth are deeply grieved for the loss of this amiable person, both for her esteemed ability and affable personality.  The first time in Portsmouth’s history and probably in the annals of American history a military funeral was given a woman and Mrs. Norton is worthy of this signal honor. An escort of fourteen sailors with rifles and a bugle, and eight lady yeowomen as pall bearers made this a spectacular and notable ceremony. The yeowomen were, the Misses Hope Akerman, Marion J. Condon, Beatrice M. Tuttle, Margaret B. Price, Jessie W. Perkins, Florence C. O’Keefe, Una Badger and Mrs. Elsie A. Wendell. After the services at the Chapel the procession headed by the fourteen sailors proceeded to Congress street, thence to Vaughan street and to the B&M Station where the body was placed aboard the 11 o’clock train for Boston. The yeowomen marched along side the body to the station as guard of honor. Final interment was made in Woodlawn Cemetery in Boston and an impressive ceremony was given. After the minister’s words the bugle and rifles, while the yeowomen stood at attention, saluting the final honor to this beloved woman of the Naval Service.”

PEOPLE’S OPINIONS (letter to Editor)
First In the Navy. Editor The Herald: “In last night’s (Monday’s) Issue of your paper a very pleasing article was written in regard to the death and funeral of Mrs. Anne Fraser Norton of Derry. The writer said “This was the first time in the history of Portsmouth and probably in the annals of American history that a woman was given a military funeral.” I think the writer was mistaken for our beloved district nurse, Miss Evelyn Petrie of Cass Street was given such a funeral, not only here in Portsmouth, but in the camp in Georgia where she met her death. Said funeral was held June 1, 1918. Soldiers from the fort escorted the body from the house to parish house and from there to the cemetery where she was laid to rest. Honor to whom honor is due.”
H. P., Cass Street. The article referred to in the Herald was on the part of the navy and made no reference to the army. ED

Derry News, Friday, 18 October 1918, page eight: [partial transcription]:” death .. which occurred at the home in Portsmouth. She had been sick but a few days having an attack of the grippe-influenza which was followed by pneumonia and resulted fatally to the young wife….her marriage to Mr. Norton a few years ago when she moved to Schenetady NY to live. From New York and Mr. and Mrs. Norton moved to Manchester, and later to Rochester. Mr. Norton being engaged in the brokerage business. Last July Mr. Norton enlisted in the United States service, and has been located at the officers’ training school…after her husband’s enlistment Mrs. Norton enrolled as a yeowoman in the Portsmouth navy yard. She was assigned to the military department as clerk and stenographer in the commandant’s office and she was well liked by her associates…. She graduated from East Boston high school, from Pinkerton Academy in the class of 1914, and later from the Bryant & Stratton Business college in Boston….The first time in Portsmouth history and probably in the annals of American history a military funeral was given a woman.….”

–Additional Family Information, re: Anne (Frasier) Norton–

Surname Questions: The surname Frasier is also seen as Frazier and Fraser in various records.  Charle’s death certificate and the preponderance of documents shows Frasier and so this is the spelling I have used.
Father:
Charles Warren Frasier was a fireman (or stream-engine driver) for the Boston Fire Department prior to his moving to Derry NH.   He and his wife Catherine (Walsh) had two children: Anne and Ethel.
Mother: Catherine Walsh, daughter of James & Katherine (McKenna) Walsh, and wife of Charles W. Frasier, died 8 November 1902 Boston, Suffolk, MA, of pneumonia.
Sister: Ethel Francis Frasier born 13 Jan 1901 Boston MA.  She married 29 Aug 1920 Derry NH to Leo Philip Myett son of Charles Myett and Julia Murphy.  She m2d) 6 July 1930 in Derry NH to Frank Williston Galvin, son of Michael Galvin and Maud Jones Ethel Galvin died January 1976 in Derry NH.
Husband: Edwin A. Norton, son of Carmi A. & Helen C. (Dame) Norton, b 13 April 1894 Derry New Hampshire. In 1900 living in Derry NH.  He married 2d) 11 Feb 1922 in Manchester NH to Alice L. Precourt, dau of Albert J. & Parmelia J. (Mathieu) Precourt.  He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester, NH.  He served in the U.S. military in both WWI and WWII.

**ADDITIONAL READING**
National Archives The Story of the Female Yeoman During WWI

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

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3 Responses to New Hampshire WWI Military: Yeoman Anne (Frasier) Norton of Derry, Manchester and Portsmouth NH (1893-1918)

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  3. Amy says:

    I wasn’t expecting to read that she died so young. That flu epidemic seemed to touch every family in every place in the world.

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