Group photograph of the first twenty Navy nurses, appointed in 1908.
The United States Navy Nurse Corps was officially established by Congress in 1908; however, unofficially, women had been working as nurses aboard Navy ships and in Navy hospitals for nearly 100 years. The Corps was all-female until 1965.
3 World War I
4 Interwar period
5 World War II
5.1 Prisoners of War
5.2 Flight nurses
9 Modern Nurse Corps
10 Insignia, badges and aiguillettes
11 Superintendents and directors
12 List of Superintendents of the Navy Nurse Corps
13 List of Directors of the Navy Nurse Corps
14 Prominent members
15 Ships named after Navy Nurse Corps Officers
16 Ships named after Nurses
17 See also
19 Further reading
20 External links
USS Red Rover by F. Muller
In 1811, William P.C. Barton became the first to officially recommend that female nurses be added to naval hospital staff. However, it wasn’t until 19 June 1861 that a Navy Department circular order finally established the designation of Nurse, to be filled by junior enlisted men. Fifteen years later, the duties were transferred to the designation Bayman (US Navy Regulations, 1876). Although enlisted personnel were referred to as nurses, their duties and responsibilities were more related to those of a hospital corpsman.
During the American Civil War, several African American women served as paid crew aboard the hospital ship Red Rover in the Mississippi River area in the position of nurse. The known names of four nurses are: Alice Kennedy, Sarah Kinno, Ellen Campbell and Betsy Young (Fowler). In addition volunteer nuns from the Catholic Sisters of the Holy Cross served aboard as nurses.
During the 1898 Spanish–American War, the Navy employed a modest number of female contract nurses in its hospitals ashore and sent trained male nurses to sea on the hospital ship Solace.
See also: The Sacred Twenty
Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee
After the establishment of the Nurse Corps in 1908 by an Act of Congress, twenty women were selected as the first members and assigned to the Naval Medical School Hospital in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the navy did not provide room or board for them, and so the nurses—being a determined lot—rented their own house and provided their own meals.
In time, the nurses would come to be known as “The Sacred Twenty” because they were the first women to