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Anna Mae Hays: The First Female Brigadier General in US Military History

Anna Mae Hays is living proof that a single person can change the world. Starting as a 22 year old girl from New York, she was able to climb the ranks of the US Army to cement her place in history as the first female Brigadier General. Her exemplary military career paved the road for future women, such as our own Brigadier General Carol Ann Fausone (ret.), to be both accepted and respected as a military leader.

General Hays’ story begins with her first deployment during WWII in January of 1943. Less than year after joining the Army Nurse Corps, she was off to India to provide medical care to American soldiers who were constructing a road to China. During her 2-year tenure there, she helped just under 50,000 American soldiers and was promoted to First Lieutenant.

Although the war ended in 1945, her career was just beginning.  She remained in active duty and deployed to the Korean War in 1950. Her success in the cold, under-supplied operating rooms there catapulted her through the command ranks. After the Korean War, she returned home to serve her country. Hays led the emergency room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, considered the Army’s preeminent hospital at the time.

In 1967, she was appointed as Chief of the Army Nurse Corps. As Chief during the Vietnam War, she took multiple trips to the region in order to direct the nursing efforts. It would be her final tour of duty.

Hays received her last promotion in 1970, becoming the first woman to wear the stars of a General officer. She retired the following year.

Brigadier General Hays will be remembered for far more than her rank. She served in 3 major US wars in under 25 years; was a pioneer in the previously male-only military chain-of-command; and an advocate for gender-equality in the military. Her efforts allowed for pregnant military officers to continue to serve their country and abolished limits that prevented potential nurses from serving in the Army Nurse Corps Reserve based on the age of their dependents.

This month marks the 45th anniversary of her promotion to Brigadier General. At the age of 95, she remains a leader to which both men and women inspire to be.

Click here to see the full story of her remarkable career:

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