Florence A. Blanchfield

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Florence Aby Blanchfield
Florence A. Blanchfield.jpg
Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield
Born(1884-04-01)April 1, 1884
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
DiedMay 12, 1971(1971-05-12) (aged 87)
Washington, D.C.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
RankUS-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands heldSuperintendent of the Army Nurse Corps
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
Florence Nightingale Medal

Florence Aby Blanchfield (April 1, 1884 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia – May 12, 1971 in Washington, D.C.) was a United States Army Colonel and superintendent of the Army Nursing Corps, from 1943 to 1947.[1] She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945,[2] and the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Red Cross in 1951. In 1947 Blanchfield became the first woman to receive a military commission in the regular army.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Florence Aby Blanchfield was born in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the fourth of eight children of Mary Louvenia (Anderson), a nurse, and Joseph Plunkett Blanchfield, a mason and stonecutter. She grew up in Oranda, Virginia, attending public school until 1898, when she attended the private Oranda Institute. In addition to having a mother who was a nurse, Blanchfield's two sisters also became nurses, and her maternal grandfather and an uncle were physicians.[5]

She graduated from Southside Hospital Training School in 1906.[6] She then studied with Howard Atwood Kelly, at Johns Hopkins Hospital.


Blanchfield was operating room supervisor at Southside Hospital and Montefiore Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1909, she was superintendent of a training school at Suburban General Hospital, in Bellevue, Pennsylvania. In 1913, she worked as an operating room nurse and an anesthetist at the Ancon Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone.

During World War I, she enlisted in the US Army Nurse Corps (ANC), and served as acting chief nurse, in Angers, and Coëtquidan, France, from August 1917 to January 1919. She was assigned to many military hospitals. She returned to civilian life for a period after the end of the War, but was drawn back to active service.

In 1935, she was assigned to Washington D.C. to the office of the superintendent, for personnel matters in the corps. She became assistant superintendent in 1939, acting superintendent in 1942, and served as superintendent from 1 June 1943 until September 1947. She was instrumental in gaining full rank for nurses, by the Army and Navy Nurse Corps Law of April 16, 1947.[7] This was preceded by temporary full commissioned status granted in 1944. During World War II, she also saw the rapid growth of the ANC from several hundred members to more than 50,000.[5] In 1947 she became the first woman to receive a military commission in the regular army.[3][4]

For her accomplishments on behalf of the ANC, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945. Blanchfield was also awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Red Cross (1951) and West Virginia's Distinguished Service Medal (1963).[5]

She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in section 21, site 641.[8][9]


Colonel Blanchfield's ribbon bar included:

1st Row Distinguished Service Medal World War I Victory Medal
2nd Row American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal


Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky was named for her in 1982.[10]


  1. ^ "Col. Florence Blanchfield, 87; Ex-Head of Nurse Corps, Dies". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  2. ^ http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=101499
  3. ^ a b Sicherman, Barbara; Carol Hurd Green (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Harvard University Press. pp. 83–4. ISBN 9780674627338.
  4. ^ a b http://www.biography.com/people/florence-blanchfield-17183770#synopsis
  5. ^ a b c Sicherman, Barbara; Carol Hurd Green (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Harvard University Press. p. 84. ISBN 9780674627338.
  6. ^ "Office of Medical History - Florence A. Blanchfield". History.amedd.army.mil. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  7. ^ Kelly, Bethanne. "Content". Military.com. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  8. ^ Michael Robert Patterson. "Florence Aby Blanchfield, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army". Arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  9. ^ "Florence Aby Blanchfield (1884 - 1971) - Find A Grave Photos". Findagrave.com. 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2015-10-07.
  10. ^ "Blanchfield Army Community Hospital Colonel Blanchfield Biography". Campbell.amedd.army.mil. Retrieved 2015-10-07.

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