First Warship Named For a Female

First Warship Named For a Female

Thanks to Peter Yeschenko

USS Higbee DD-806

USS Higbee DD-806 was a Gearing-class destroyer in the US Navy during WWII.

She was the first US warship named for a female member of the U.S. Navy, being named for Chief Nurse Lenah S. Higbee, a pioneering Navy nurse who served as Superintendent of the US Navy Nurse Corps during World War I.

Lenah Higbee completed nurses’ training at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899 and entered private practice soon thereafter.

She took postgraduate training at Fordham Hospital, New York in 1908 and in October 1908, she joined the newly-established US Navy Nurse Corps as one of its first twenty members.

These nurses, who came to be called “The Sacred Twenty”, were the first women to formally serve as members of the Navy.

She was promoted to Chief Nurse in 1909. Lenah Higbee became chief nurse at Norfolk Naval Hospital in April 1909.

In January 1911, Mrs. Higbee (she was the widow of Lieutenant Colonel John Henley Higbee, USMC) became the second Superintendent of the Nurse Corps.

For her achievements in leading the Corps through the First World War, Chief Nurse Higbee was awarded the Navy Cross, the first living woman to receive that medal.

She resigned from the position of Superintendent and retired from the Navy on 23 November 1922.

Chief Nurse Lenah H. Higbee died at Winter Park, Florida, on 10 January 1941 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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