July 9, 1947: Florence A. Blanchfield becomes first female Army officer
When it comes to war, women excelled as nurses back in the day. Unfortunately, none of them received the proper praise from the military for their life-saving abilities. One woman, however, flipped the script and got rewarded for her brave efforts.
Her path was already chosen
Born in Virginia, Florence A. Blanchfield had nursing flowing through her blood. Her mother Mary Louvenia and two of her sisters were all nurses. If that wasn’t enough, her grandfather and uncle held jobs as physicians. She decided to join them by training at the Southside Hospital Training School and Johns Hopkins Hospital. After a while, Blanchfield began working at Southside Hospital as an operating room supervisor. Years later, she moved on up as an anesthetist at Panama City’s Ancon Hospital.
Making a big change
World War I found over 21,000 nurses assigned to heal soldiers’ wounds. Blanchfield used her expertise to help out during the event. Stationed in France, she became one of the most sought after nurses in the area. When World War II came around, Blanchfield threw her scrubs back on for another round. For her dedication, Blanchfield became superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps. While on the job, Blanchfield felt as if nurses should have the same level of recognition as soldiers. In April 1947, the Army‐Navy Nurses Act gave nurses equal pay and allowed commissioned rank.
The first of her kind
On July 9, 1947, Blanchfield became the first woman to gain a military rank. As a lieutenant colonel, she knew that her job would gradually become a bigger division of the military. “We have no fears of there being a surplus of nurses after World War II as after World War I,” she told New York Times. Two months after earning the title, Blanchfield retired from the force. She quietly lived in her home in Arlington, Virginia until her death on May 12, 1971. Her legacy lives with the Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital in Kentucky. More importantly, she kicked down the doors for more ladies gaining the respect they’ve deserved in the force.