Originally, I was going to write this article about the first female United States Army General,. But as I began doing research, I felt I needed to give in to naming more female Army leaders… Namely Generals.
The fact that the level of Brigadier General is difficult to attain for a male, I would say that it is even slightly more difficult for a female.
But times have changed and we now even have female officers in the infantry.
I know there are various opinions about this. I have no issue with any debate at the end of this post; all I ask is that everyone be civil with their words or we will not allow the comment to be published.
I am going to take you back in time… Back when females began to gain leadership positions in the United States Army.
The First Female Army Officer
The year was 1947. The President of the United States was Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower was General of the Army.
It was the year a woman first became an Army officer. Her name was Florence Blanchfield and General Eisenhower appointed her as Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army making her the first woman to hold a permanent Army officer rank.
The First Female Army General/s
It would be a long time before a female would attain a rank of General in the Army. When it
finally happened, it was not one, but two women who were promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.
It was June 11th, 1970 and as these 2 women had the Stars pinned on their shoulders, something we never thought we would see happened.
A male Army General kissed 2 female Army Generals. Yes, it is a fact. General William Westmoreland kissed Brigadier General Anna Hayes who was the first female General in the U.S. Army and Brigadier General Elizabeth Hoisington.
History had been made!
I am going to take you through female Army Generals and give you a slight biography of each starting with the first 2.
Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays
Anna was born in 1920. She gained a diploma in nursing and joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1942.
Anna was stationed in India during World War II and she also served in Korea. Anna then was in an academic position at Walter Reed Hospital.
In 1967, she became the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and she traveled to Vietnam several times.
Promoted to Brigadier General in 1970, Anna retired in 1971. Her highest award was the Legion of Merit with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster.
Brigadier General Elizabeth Hoisington
Elizabeth was born in 1918 and she passed away in 2007.
In 1942, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She was commissioned in 1943.
Elizabeth served in France during World War II. She served during Korea and spent some time in the Pentagon. In 1965, Elizabeth was appointed Director of the Women’s Army Corps and visited Vietnam several times.
Elizabeth also retired in 1971 after being promoted to Brigadier General in 1970. Her highest awards were:
- The Army Distinguished Service Medal
- Legion of Merit with 1 Oak Leaf cluster
Brigadier General Hazel Johnson Brown
Hazel was born in 1927 and passed away in 2011.
She served as an Army nurse from 1955 – 1983. We recognize Hazel on 2 accomplishments.
- In 1979, she was the first black woman promoted to Brigadier General.
- Also in 1979, Hazel became the first black Chief of the United States Army Nurse Corps.
Awards Hazel attained consisted of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Cluster.
Brigadier General Dr. Rhonda Cornum
This is an amazing woman!
Born in 1954, Dr. Cornum studied biochemistry and decided she wanted to become a flight surgeon.
She did and during the Persian Gulf, she was on board a Blackhawk Helicopter and they were shot down.
Dr. Cornum was captured and had to endure torture and abuse.
Brigadier General Cornum retired from the Army in 2012. She wrote and published the book: She Went to War: the Rhonda Cornum Story.
Major General Jessica Wright
She was the first female aviation brigade commander and also the first National Guard female aviator.
Major General Wright was the adjutant general of Pennsylvania and commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
I don’t have much more info on this remarkable woman, but she can smile bright for her accomplishments.
Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy
Born in Germany in 1947, Lieutenant General Kennedy rose through Army ranks in Intelligence. She did 2 tours in Germany and 1 tour in South Korea.
Claudia retired from the Army in 2000 with 31 years of service.
Brigadier General Coral Pietsch
Now a Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Coral served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves from 1974 – 2007 and she retired as a Brigadier General.
While in the Reserves, she was deployed to Iraq during the Iraq War.
General Ann Dunwoody
General Dunwoody carries the distinction of being the first female to reach 4 stars.
Born in 1953, Ann served in the Army from 1975 – 2012. She was nominated as Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command.
She served in the Persian Gulf War and has numerous awards that include:
- Army Distinguished Service Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster
- Defense Superior Service Medal
- Legion of Merit with two bronze oak leaf clusters
- and many more.
Brigadier General Colleen McGuire
Serving in the U.S. Army from 1979 – 2011, Colleen was the first female to hold the title of Provost Marshal and she was the Commanding General of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Lieutenant General Susan Lawrence
Now retired, Susan was the first female to hold the Chief Information Officer designation. She joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1972 and was commissioned in 1979.
Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho
In 2011. Lieutenant General Horoho became both the first female and the first nurse to become the Surgeon General of the Army. In 2008, Patricia had taken command of the Army Nurse Corps.
All the above women are now retired.
Active Duty Female Generals
The following females are still on active duty in the United States Army:
- Lieutenant General Gwen Bingham: First female to serve as Quartermaster General.
- Major General Marcia Anderson: First African American Female Reserve officer to obtain this rank.
- Brigadier General Margaret Burcham: First female promoted to General officer in the Army Corps of Engineers.
- Major General Laura Richardson: The first female to become a deputy commanding general of a maneuver division.
- Lieutenant General Flora Darpino: She is the first female Judge Advocate General of the Army.
- Lieutenant General Nadja West: She graduated from the United States Military Academy and holds the highest rank of any woman who has done so.
- Brigadier General Diana Holland: Her distinction is being the first female Commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
The pace females are making in achieving leadership positions in the U.S. Army has picked up greatly.
I believe all Army women owe that to the first 2 female Army Generals because they pushed for more women to be promoted.
I personally see nothing wrong with female Army leaders. Do you?
I want to thank all females who serve. You have helped grow our force into a solid, fearless structure.
Please leave your questions and comments below, and will you share this on social media?
About The Author
Greg Boudonck is a full time freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He served in the United States Army in the early 1980’s and enjoys writing about military subjects. You can see Greg’s books on Amazon by searching his name and you can also visit his website at Lancerlife.com.