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Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee
Born (1874-05-18)May 18, 1874
Died January 10, 1941(1941-01-10) (aged 66)
Place of birth Chatham, Dominion of Canada
Place of death 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 U.S. Navy Nurse Corps (1911-1922)
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Navy Cross ribbon.svg 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, best known for being the only female recipient of the Navy Cross.

Early life and education[edit | edit source]

Higbee was born Lenah H. Sutcliffe in Chatham, Canada, on 18 May 1874. 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 and 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. She was promoted to Chief Nurse in 1909. Lenah Higbee became chief nurse at Norfolk Naval Hospital in April 1909.

Career[edit | edit source]

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 (and only) living woman to receive that medal. She resigned from the position of Superintendent and retired from the Navy on 23 November 1922.

Navy Cross Citation[edit | edit source]

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.

Later life and death[edit | edit source]

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

Legacy[edit | edit source]

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

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Preceded by
Esther Voorhees Hasson
Superintendent, Navy Nurse Corps
Succeeded by
Josephine Beatrice Bowman

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