Lehah H. Sutcliffe Higbee – Superintendent, Navy Nurse Corps, United States Navy

Chief Nurse Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee, U.S. Navy (May 18, 1874–January 10, 1941), was a pioneering Navy nurse, who served as Superintendent of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during World War I.


She was born Lenah H. Sutcliffe in Chatham, New Brunswick, on 18 May 1874. She completed nurses' training at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899 and entered private practice soon thereafter. 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.

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 living woman to receive that medal. She retired from the Navy in November 1922. Chief Nurse Lenah H. Higbee died at Winter Park, Florida, on 10 January 1941.

USS Higbee (DD-806), commissioned in 1945, was named in her honor, the first U.S. Navy combat ship to bear the name of a female member of the Naval service.

Navy Cross Citation
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.

Director of U. S. Navy Corps In World Conflict Stricken In Orlando, Florida, Hospital
Held Post For 14 Years
Widow Of Colonel In Marines Received The Distinguished Service Medal for Work

ORLANDO, Florida – January 11, 1941 – Mrs. Lehah Sutcliffe Higbee, who during the World War directed the activities of the entire United States Navy Nursing Corps, died suddenly last night in theOrange General Hospital.  Her age was 66.

Mrs. Higbee, who received theDistinguished Service Medal forher work, was the widow of Colonel John HenleyHigbee, United States Marine Corps.  After his death in 1908 she became superintendent of the United States Navy Nursing Corps, a post she held for fourteen years.

During the World War Mrs. Higbeehad headquarters in Washington and diected the work of 500 nurses.  In 1923 she retired and came to Winter Park to reside with lifelong friends, Miss Isabel Strong and Dr. Lawrence W. Strong.

Surviving are four sisters, Mrs. Henry Coe, Mrs. Howard Reiss and Mrs. Brunswick Barnhill of California, and Mrs. Macy Wheaton of Wolfville, N. S.

A memorial service will beheld tomorrow at 2:30 P. M. in the Winter Park Espocipal Church with the Rev. W. Keith Chidester officiating. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, on Tuesday.

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