Breakthroughs for Black Military Women

Written by: Judith Bellafaire, Ph.D., Curator
Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.
history@womensmemorial.org

1948

First Lieutenant Nancy C. Leftenant was the first black woman to become a member of the Regular Army Nurse Corps in March--she had joined the Reserve Corps in February 1945.

1951

The first three black women commissioned as officers (Second Lieutenants) in the Air Force were Edwina Martin of Danville, Virginia; Fannie Jean Cotton of Jackson, Michigan; and Evelyn M. Brown of Shreveport, Louisiana. All three graduated from the Air Force Officer Candidate School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

1964

Margaret E. Bailey, Army Nurse Corps, was the first nurse to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

1967

Captain Clara Adams-Ender became the first female in the US Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge.

1969

Captain Diane Lindsay, Army Nurse Corps, was the first black nurse to receive the Soldier's Medal for Heroism.

1970

Lieutenant Colonel Margaret E. Bailey, Army Nurse Corps, became the first black nurse to hold the rank of Colonel.

1972

Mildred C. Kelly became the first black female E9 (Sergeant Major) in the US Army.

1974

Staff Sergeant Joyce B. Malone became the first black woman to earn Airborne Wings in the US Army Reserves.

1976

Lieutenant Colonel Clara Adams-Ender became the first woman in the US Army to earn the Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

1979

Brigadier General Hazel W. Johnson-Brown became the first black woman general officer and the first black Chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

1987

Irene Trowell-Harris became the first black female general officer in the National Guard.

1995

Brigadier General Marcelite Harris, USAF, was promoted to major general, the first black woman to attain this rank.

1997

US Army Sergeant Danyell Wilson became the first black woman to earn the prestigious job of guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.