Lenah Higbee

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee
Lenah Higbee.jpg
Born (1874-05-18)May 18, 1874
Chatham, Dominion of Canada
Died January 10, 1941(1941-01-10) (aged 66)
Winter Park, Florida, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1908–1922
Rank Chief Nurse
Commands held Superintendent of the United States Navy Nurse Corps (1911–22)
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Navy Cross

Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (May 18, 1874 – January 10, 1941) was a pioneering Canadian-born United States Navy chief nurse, who served as Superintendent of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during World War I. She is best known for being the first female recipient of the Navy Cross.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Higbee was born Lenah H. Sutcliffe in Chatham, Canada, on 18 May 1874.[2] She completed nurses' training at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899 and entered private practice soon thereafter. Lenah Higbee took postgraduate training at Fordham Hospital, New York in 1908.

In October 1908, she joined the newly established U.S. 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.[3]

She was promoted to Chief Nurse in 1909. Lenah Higbee became chief nurse at Norfolk Naval Hospital in April 1909.[citation needed] [4]


In January 1911, Higbee (she was the widow of Lieutenant Colonel John Henley Higbee, USMC) became the second Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.[5] For her achievements in leading the Corps through the First World War, Chief Nurse Higbee was awarded the Navy Cross, the first (and only) living woman to receive that medal. She resigned from the position of Superintendent and retired from the Navy on 23 November 1922.[6]

Navy Cross citation[edit]

Date of Action: 1918

The Navy Cross is awarded to Lenah Sutcliff Higbee, Superintendent, Navy Nurse Corps, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.

[citation needed]

Later life and death[edit]

Higbee died at Winter Park, Florida, on 10 January 1941 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[7][2]


USS Higbee (DD 806), commissioned in 1945, was named in Higbee's honor, and was the first U.S. Navy combat warship to bear the name of a female member of the U.S. Navy.[8]

The future USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) is scheduled to enter the Navy fleet in 2024.[9]


Further reading

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Esther Hasson
Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps
Succeeded by
Josephine Beatrice Bowman