During Women’s History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Florence A. Blanchfield, a superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps.
Florence A. Blanchfield was born in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in 1884. She was the daughter of stonemason Joseph Plunkett Blanchfield and Mary Louvenia Anderson Blanchfield, a nurse. Blanchfield grew up in Oranda, Virginia, as one of eight children and attended the private Oranda Institute.
In 1906, Blanchfield graduated from Southside Hospital Training School and went to study with Howard Atwood Kelly at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She then became a superintendent of a training school at Suburban General Hospital in Bellevue, Pennsylvania.
By 1913, Blanchfield was working as an operating room nurse and anesthetist at the Ancon Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. When she returned to the U.S., she began working at the United States Steel Corporation in Bessemer, Pennsylvania, while attending Martin Business College. In 1916, she resumed her position as superintendent of nurses at Suburban General Hospital.
When World War I began, Blanchfield joined the Army Nurse Corps and the University of Pittsburgh Medical School unit, Base Hospital #27. She served as acting chief nurse from August 1917 to January 1919 in Angers, France, and Camp Coëtquidan, an artillery training center for the American Expeditionary Forces located in Saint-Malo-de-Beignon, France. After World War I, Blanchfield resumed civilian life, but in 1920, only eight months after leaving the Army Nurse Corps, she returned to active service.
By 1935, Blanchfield went to Washington, D.C., to work at the superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps’ office. Four years later, Blanchfield became assistant superintendent and in 1942, she was the acting superintendent. On June 1, 1943, Blanchfield took office as superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps. She was an instrumental force in helping nurses achieve full ranks through the Army and Navy Nurse Corps Law of April 16, 1947.
During World War II, the Army Nurse Corps rapidly grew from several hundred members to more than 50,000. In 1947, Blanchfield became the first woman ever to receive a military commission in the regular Army. Among her other accomplishments, she received a Distinguished Service Medal in 1945, a Florence Nightingale Medal from the International Red Cross in 1951 and West Virginia’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1963.
Blanchfield reached the rank of colonel before retiring in September 1947. Blanchfield was considered to be a “soldiers’ nurse” due to her extensive and varied military background and her passion for the wellbeing of ordinary soldiers. She was also a confidant to her closest friends and colleagues.
Blanchfield passed away on May 12, 1971, and was buried in the nurses’ section of Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
In her memory, the hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was named the Colonel Florence A. Blanchfield Army Community Hospital in 1982. This was the first instance where a Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC) was named after an Army nurse.
We honor her service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Adrienne Brookstein
Editor: Christopher Wilson
Fact checkers: and
Graphic artist: Helena Strohmier