Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women. There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them. Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include? I welcome your suggestions. Would you like to guest blog one of the world’s outstanding women? Let me hear from you.
Today an outstanding woman from United States military history. Meet Lieutenant Colonel Florence Blanchfield
On July 9, 1947 in a ceremony held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, General Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints Florence Blanchfield to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army (later Colonel), making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold permanent military rank.
Florence Aby Blanchfield was born in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the fourth of eight children of Mary Louvenia (Anderson), a nurse, and Joseph Plunkett Blanchfield, a mason and stonecutter. She grew up in Oranda, Virginia, attending public school until 1898, when she attended the private Oranda Institute. In addition to having a mother who was a nurse, Blanchfield’s two sisters also became nurses, and her maternal grandfather and an uncle were physicians.
She graduated from Southside Hospital Training School in 1906.
She then studied with Howard Atwood Kelly, at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
- Blanchfield was operating room supervisor at Southside Hospital and Montefiore Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- In 1909, she was superintendent of a training school at Suburban General Hospital, in Bellevue, Pennsylvania.
- In 1913, she worked as an operating room nurse and an anesthetist at the Ancon Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone.
- During World War I, she enlisted in the US Army Nurse Corps (ANC), and served as acting chief nurse, in Angers, and Coëtquidan, France, from August 1917 to January 1919. She was assigned to many military hospitals.
- She returned to civilian life for a period after the end of the War, but was drawn back to active service.
- In 1935, she was assigned to Washington D.C. to the office of the superintendent, for personnel matters in the corps.
- She became assistant superintendent in 1939, acting superintendent in 1942, and served as superintendent from 1 June 1943 until September 1947.
- She was instrumental in gaining full rank for nurses, by the Army and Navy Nurse Corps Law of April 16, 1947. This was preceded by temporary full commissioned status granted in 1944.
- During World War II, she also saw the rapid growth of the Army Nurses Corps from several hundred members to more than 50,000.
- For her accomplishments on behalf of the ANC, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.
- Blanchfield was also awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Red Cross (1951) and West Virginia’s Distinguished Service Medal (1963).
Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky was named for her in 1982.
She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in section 21, site 641.