In the early days of the United States military, if women served they worked as nurses or worked in communication centers. They never achieved rankings like their male counterparts did, until 1947.
In 1947, Florence Blanchfield had served in the United States Army for 30 years in the Army Nurse Corps. Throughout World War II, she was a superintendent.
When the Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947 was put in place, Blanchfield was given her commission. General Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed her a lieutenant colonel in the Army.
This appointment made her the first woman to permanently hold a military rank in America. Blanchfield had a hand in the passage of the Army-Navy Nurse Act.
Army-Navy Nurse Act
The act offered permanent officer status for those who served in the Army Nurse Corps. Thousands of women served as military nurses in World War II.
However, not a single one of them was given the same rights, pay, or privilege as their counterparts.
According to the comptroller general, “women were not persons.” Therefore, they did not receive equal pay.
Blanchfield went to nursing school in Pittsburgh, Pa. She went to the Panama Canal Zone as a nurse after graduating.
She joined the U.S. Army in 1917. She was stationed at the Base Hospital #27 in France. She became the Acting Chief Nurse of Combat Hospital #15 prior to the war ending.
She moved on to serving in China and the Phillippines. Once she was finished serving there, she came home to the United States to Washington D.C. in 1935. There she served as a staff officer for the Surgeon General.
Army Nurse Corps Expansion
She became the supervisor of the Army Nurse Corps in 1943, serving as second-in-command to Col. Julia Flikke. In her position, she grew the Army Nurse Coprs from 1,000 nurses to 57,000.
The nurses were stationed throughout the world. However, they has the highest casualty rate out of all the service women in the war. There were 201 nurses who died, and 83 were taken as prisoners of war, according to Military.com.
Around 1600 nurses received honors for their service in the wars. Blanchfield herself was given the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.