On 13 March 1942, Julia Flikke from the Nurses Corp became the first-ever female colonel in United States history.
Julia was born in Wisconsin in 1878 and worked as a schoolteacher for two years before her marriage in 1901. After losing her son during a difficult childbirth and then her husband to tuberculosis in 1911, she resolved to dedicate her life to healthcare and trained as a nurse. She entered the Army Nurses Corps during World War One, qualified as chief nurse and sailed for France in 1918. After the war she continued to work as an army nurse in the US and China and rose through the ranks to first lieutenant and then captain.
As World War Two approached in the late 1930s, Julia was faced with the daunting task of recruiting, training and assigning the largest nursing unit ever mobilised in the United States. To help publicise the cause, she wrote a book called Nurses in Action about life as a military nurse. In 1942 she was promoted to colonel and given equal pay to her male equivalents. She retired from the army in 1943, at the age of 65.
In recognition of her service in the military, particularly her hard work in swiftly galvanising military nurses for wartime in her 60s, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1944.
To read more about military nurses during wartime, try:
- Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War
- An Army Nurse in Two Wars
- And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II
- Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific
- Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II
- Ruff's War: A Navy Nurse on the Frontline in Iraq