Nurse Florence Aby Blanchfield (April 1, 1882-May 12, 1971) was born in Shepherdstown. She attended business college at Pittsburgh, and in 1906 she graduated from the South Side Training School for Nurses in Pittsburgh. She received additional training at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
After several years as a civilian nurse,Blanchfield in 1917 enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps and served in France during World War I. After briefly returning to civilian life, she served at army hospitals in the United States and abroad, and in the surgeon general’s office. As a lieutenant colonel commissioned in 1942, Blanchfield served as assistant to Col. Julia Flikke, superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps. She succeeded Flikke in 1943. Given serial number 1, Blanchfield then served in the temporary grade of full colonel. During World War II, she oversaw expansion of the corps from 1,000 to 57,000 nurses, the largest group ever to serve on active duty.
Blanchfield worked with Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton to secure passage of the Army-Navy Nurses Act in 1947. As a result, the army and navy revised regulations, permitting female nurses to hold full rank and receive the rights, privileges, and pay afforded commissioned male officers. That year, Blanchfield became the first woman to hold a permanent commission in the regular army of the United States, receiving her commission from General Eisenhower. She received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945, the International Red Cross’s Florence Nightingale Medal in 1951, and the West Virginia Distinguished Service Medal in 1963.
Blanchfield retired in 1947 and died in Washington. Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was dedicated in her honor in 1982.
This Article was written by Russ Barbour
Last Revised on September 25, 2012