For Women’s Equality Day, we recognize Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody who became the first female four-star general in the U.S. Armed Forces.
On this Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution (prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex), we recognize General Ann E. Dunwoody.
Dunwoody’s achievements and contributions to the U.S. Army have been a series of stepping stones, a series of firsts for other women to follow in her footsteps. But it didn’t start out that way. As a child, she wanted to become a doctor or nurse. And though three generations before her had served in the Army, it wasn’t until college that the idea of serving just seemed to click for her.
Dunwoody was studying physical education at the State University of New York at Cortland when she discovered that the Army’s values aligned with her own. With her curiosity piqued, she committed to a four-week Army introduction program. While continuing her undergraduate studies, she then enrolled in an 11-week Women’s Officer Orientation Course.
After completing a two-year commitment, Dunwoody direct commissioned into the Women’s Army Corps. She joined the Quartermaster Corps at the 82nd Airborne Division, excited for the chance to become a parachute officer.
Dunwoody was excited for her first jump. That’s when her instructor explained the dangers of wearing barrettes and bobby pins under her helmet. “I’m not cutting my hair,” she said, then took out the barrettes and used masking tape to hold down her hair: she became a parachute officer.
Over a 38-year career, including 30 years in the Quartermaster Corps, Dunwoody served at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Kaiserslautern, Germany; Fort Bragg, NC; Fort Drum, NY; and at Fort Lee, VA. She has deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm, to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom 1 and to Uzbekistan in support of Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)-180. Scattered throughout, she found the time to continue her education: she studied at the Florida Institute of Technology for a Masters of Science in Logistics Management, and a Masters of Science in National Resource Strategy at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Dunwoody became the Army’s top-ranking woman soldier in 2005 when she received promotion to lieutenant general; in 2008, President George W. Bush nominated her to Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command—and became the first woman to receive a fourth star. She retired in 2012, and in 2015, published a book, A High Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General. Her book highlights leadership lessons and applications she acquired during her career.
Before Dunwoody made history, she experienced several other firsts: In 1992, she was the first woman to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division; in 2000, she became the first woman general at Fort Bragg; in 2004, she became the first woman to command the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia.
General Dunwoody’s service doesn’t only show America’s resolve toward the full and equal participation of women in our Nation’s life, but that women are making important contributions to the quality of American life as well.
Thank you for your service, General Ann E. Dunwoody!
Writer: Kat Kollath
Editor: Michelle Cannon
Fact checker: Kat Blanchard
Graphic artist: Austin Waters