Making the Grade

As the federal government expanded, some Jewish workers found that government positions offered better opportunities and higher pay than did other jobs.
By 1890, the federal government had grown to more than 23,000 workers in Washington. Young Jews were among those who sat for civil service exams and found jobs in government agencies.

Facing a manpower shortage during World War I, the government encouraged women to work. Many women, Jews among them, became government typists and stenographers.

Dime Messenger Service Photo

1912: Established by Liz Kressin, the Dime Messenger Service served the expanding government. From offices at 12th Street and New York Avenue, NW, uniformed men delivered messages across the city for 10 cents.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Eugene Kressin. 1996.37

Photo of Jennie Biron

1917: Like her brothers, Jennie Biron wanted to serve her country. She enlisted in the military as a Yeomanette. Because women were barred from combat, she took her tour of duty at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard. She later became an officer of the women veterans’ Jacob Jones American Legion Post #44.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Betty Kamerow and Shirley Binder.

Stenographer’s certificate for Ida Eluto

1917: This World War I commission shows that Ida R. Eluto served as a stenographer for the Four Minute Men, a wartime agency that sent volunteers around the country to give short speeches to rally support for the war.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Selma Freedman. 1998.03

Hillel Marans clipping

1918: Russian immigrant Hillel Marans relied on his mathematical abilities to pass the three-day competitive engineering exam and gain a position in the U.S. Patent Office.

Courtesy of Nelson Marans.

Temporary war buildings on the Mall

Early 1900s: During World War I, more than 100,000 government workers and soldiers swamped the city, filling temporary war buildings or “tempos”, like these seen here.

Courtesy of Washingtoniana Division, DC Public Library.

Dime Messenger Service Photo
Photo of Jennie Biron
Stenographer’s certificate for Ida Eluto
Hillel Marans clipping
Temporary war buildings on the Mall