On this day in 1942, Julia Flikke of the Nurse Corps became the first female Colonel in the United States Army. Born in Wisconsin in 1878, it was her husband’s early death from tuberculosis and the death of her baby during childbirth that convinced Flikke of the national need for decent medical care. As a result, she attended Augustana Hospital’s School of Nursing in Chicago and, upon completion of her studies, became assistant superintendent of nurses at Augustana Hospital.
Flikke entered the Army Nurse Corps during the First World War and was named chief nurse of the Augustana Unit. Over the subsequent years she played an active role in the war, having been made a First Lieutenant and becoming chief nurse of the Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington D.C.
As the Second World War emerged on the horizon, Flikke spearheaded the campaign for the Army Nurse Corps’ increasingly difficult efforts to recruit, outfit, and assign the greatest number of nurses ever mobilised. During WWII she published Nurses in Action, The Story of the Army Nurse Corps, in an attempt to drive more people to sign up. It was on 13 March 1942 that she was issued a rank corresponding a U.S Army Colonel, making her the first woman in America to achieve this honour.