Anna Mae Hays

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Anna Mae Hays
BGEN Anna Mae Hays.jpg
BornAnna Mae Violet McCabe [1]
(1920-02-16)February 16, 1920
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Died January 7, 2018(2018-01-07) (aged 97)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Burial place Grandview Cemetery
Occupation Army nurse
Spouse(s) William Hays (until 1962; his death) [1]
Military career
AllegianceFlag of the United States (Pantone).svg United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Army (official proportions).svg  United States Army
Years of service 1942–1971
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands held Army Nurse Corps

Anna Mae Violet McCabe Hays (February 16, 1920 – January 7, 2018) was an American military officer who served as the 13th chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She was the first woman in the U.S. Armed Forces to be promoted to a General Officer rank; in 1970, she was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. [2] Hays paved the way for equal treatment of women, countering occupational sexism, and made a number of recommendations, which were accepted into military policy.

United States Army Nurse Corps

The United States Army Nurse Corps was formally established by the U.S. Congress in 1901. It is one of the six medical special branches of officers which – along with medical enlisted soldiers – comprise the Army Medical Department (AMEDD).

Occupational sexism refers to any discriminatory practices, statements, actions, etc. based on a person's sex that are present or occur in a place of employment.


Early life

Hays was born in 1920 in Buffalo, New York as the middle of three children in the family. [3] [2] Her father's name was Daniel Joseph McCabe II (1881–1939), [4] while her mother's name was Mattie Florence Humphrey (1885–1961), [5] [6] who was of Welsh descent; [7] both her parents were members of The Salvation Army. [2] During Hays' childhood the family moved several times in the western New York and eastern Pennsylvania areas, but settled in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in 1932. [2] [8] She had an elder brother, Daniel Joseph and a younger sister, Katherine Evangeline. [6] Hays attended Allentown High School, now William Allen High School, graduating with honours in 1938. [9] [10] Hays had a love of music, playing the piano, the organ and the French horn, and wanted to go to Juilliard School to study music but due to a lack of funds for tuition she decided to pursue nursing instead. [2]

Buffalo, New York City in Western New York

Buffalo is the second largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the largest city in Western New York. As of July 2016, the population was 256,902. The city is the county seat of Erie County and a major gateway for commerce and travel across the Canada–United States border, forming part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.

The Salvation Army Protestant Christian movement and international charitable organization structured in a quasi-military fashion

The Salvation Army (TSA) is a Protestant Christian church and an international charitable organisation. The organisation reports a worldwide membership of over 1.7 million, consisting of soldiers, officers and adherents collectively known as Salvationists. Its founders sought to bring salvation to the poor, destitute, and hungry by meeting both their "physical and spiritual needs". It is present in 131 countries, running charity shops, operating shelters for the homeless and disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.

Allentown, Pennsylvania Home Rule Municipality in Pennsylvania, United States

Allentown is a city located in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is Pennsylvania's third most populous city and the 231st largest city in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 118,032 and is currently the fastest growing city in all of Pennsylvania. It is the largest city in the metropolitan area known as the Lehigh Valley, which had a population of 821,623 residents as of 2010. Allentown constitutes a portion of the New York City Combined Statistical Area and is the county seat of Lehigh County. In 2012, the city celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding in 1762.


Following her high school studies, Hays enrolled in 1939 [6] at the Allentown General Hospital School of Nursing, from which she graduated in 1941, having obtained a diploma in nursing. In May 1942, she joined the Army Nurse Corps, and was sent to India in January 1943, serving with the 20th Field Hospital, [11] to the town of Ledo in Assam. [12] [13] [14] The hospital was stationed at the entrance to Ledo Road, which cut through the jungles into Burma. [15] The living and working conditions were somewhat primitive; the buildings were made of bamboo, and dysentery, leeches and snakes were common, particularly during monsoon seasons. Just over two years later, in April 1945, she was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. [10]

A Diploma in Nursing or Nursing Diploma is an entry-level tertiary education nursing credential.

Ledo, Assam village in Assam, India

Ledo is a small town in Tinsukia district, Assam, India. It is the easternmost broad gauge railway station in India. It is the starting point for the Ledo Road, also known as the Stillwell Road during the British Raj. This road was used by the Americans and British as a military supply route to China through Burma (Myanmar).

Assam State in northeast India

Assam is a state in India, situated south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys. Assam covers an area of 78,438 km2 (30,285 sq mi). The state is bordered by Bhutan and the state of Arunachal Pradesh to the north; Nagaland and Manipur to the east; Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Bangladesh to the south; and West Bengal to the west via the Siliguri Corridor, a 22 kilometres (14 mi) strip of land that connects the state to the rest of India. The largest District of Assam is Karbi Anglong with nearly 10,434 square km of area.

After serving two and a half years in India, Hays was on leave in the United States when the war ended. [8] Remaining with the Corps, she served as an operating room nurse and later as a head nurse at Tilton General Hospital at Fort Dix, New Jersey; as obstetrics supervisor at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania; and as a head nurse at Fort Myer, Virginia. [8]

Fort Dix census-designated place in New Jersey, United States

Fort Dix, the common name for the Army Support Activity located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, is a United States Army post. It is located approximately 16.1 miles (25.9 km) south-southeast of Trenton, New Jersey. Fort Dix is under the jurisdiction of the Air Force Air Mobility Command As of the 2010 United States Census, Fort Dix census-designated place (CDP) had a total population of 7,716, of which 5,951 were in New Hanover Township, 1,765 were in Pemberton Township and none were in Springfield Township.

Fort Myer place in Virginia listed on National Register of Historic Places

Fort Myer is the previous name used for a U.S. Army post next to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, and across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Founded during the American Civil War as Fort Cass and Fort Whipple, the post merged in 2005 with the neighboring Marine Corps installation, Henderson Hall, and is today named Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall.

In August 1950, [7] she was deployed to Inchon to serve in the Korean War. [13] She was posted to the 4th Field Hospital [11] for seven months, and later described the conditions in the hospital there as worse than those in India in World War II, due to the cold temperatures in the operating room and a lack of supplies. [2] [13] In the following fourteen months, she and 31 other nurses treated more than 25,000 patients. [7] As she had done in India, Hays spent some of her off-duty time in Korea assisting chaplains by playing a field pump organ for church services, some of which were held on the front lines. [8] Following her tour in Korea, Hays was transferred to Tokyo Army Hospital in April 1951 [16] and served a year there. [8] A year later, she was transferred to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania as an obstetric and pediatric director. [17] After graduating from the Nursing Service Administration Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, she was appointed head nurse at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. [16] emergency room, where she served as the head nurse of the Radioisotope Clinic. [16] [10] During this time she was selected as one of three private nurses for President Dwight D. Eisenhower after he became ill with ileitis; on her retirement she said that this experience was one of the most memorable of her nursing career. [9] She also earned a bachelor's degree in nursing education in 1958 from Columbia University, and a Master of Science in Nursing degree in 1968 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. [14] In October 1960, she became the chief nurse of the 11th Evacuation Hospital in Pusan. [17] From 1963 to 1966, she was assistant chief of the Army Nurse Corps. In July 1967, she was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and on September 1 of the same year she was appointed chief of the Corps, a position she held until her retirement on August 31, 1971. [8] [12]

Incheon Metropolitan City in Seoul National Capital Area, South Korea

Incheon, officially the Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시), is a city located in northwestern South Korea, bordering Seoul and Gyeonggi to the east. Inhabited since the Neolithic, Incheon was home to just 4,700 people when it became an international port in 1883. Today, about 3 million people live in the city, making it South Korea's third most-populous city after Seoul and Busan. The city's growth has been assured in modern times with the development of its port due to its natural advantages as a coastal city and its proximity to the South Korean capital. It is part of the Seoul Capital Area, along with Seoul itself and Gyeonggi Province, forming the world's fifth largest metropolitan area by population.

Korean War 1950–1953 war between North Korea and South Korea

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea. The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border.

Fort Indiantown Gap census designated place in Pennsylvania, USA

Fort Indiantown Gap, also referred to as "The Gap" or "FIG", is a census-designated place and U.S. Army post primarily located in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. A portion of the installation is located in eastern Dauphin County. It is located adjacent to Interstate 81, 23 miles (37 km) northeast of Harrisburg, just north of the northern terminus of Pennsylvania Route 934 at I-81's Exit 85. The installation is an active National Guard Training Center and serves as headquarters for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Pennsylvania National Guard. The fort surrounds Memorial Lake State Park. It is served by the Annville, Pennsylvania post office, ZIP Code 17003. As of the 2010 census the population was 143 residents.

During the Vietnam War Hays travelled to Vietnam three times to monitor American nurses stationed there. She also managed the development of new training programs and an increase in the number of nurses serving overseas. [10]

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.

On May 15, 1970 President Richard Nixon appointed Hays to the rank of brigadier general and on June 11, 1970, she was promoted at a ceremony, officiated by the Army Chief of Staff, General William C. Westmoreland, and the Secretary of the Army, Stanley R. Resor. Following Hays' promotion, Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director of the Women’s Army Corps, was also promoted to the rank of brigadier general. [13] [8] Hays said in her address to the gathering, that the general stars "reflect[ed] the dedicated, selfless, and often heroic efforts of Army nurses throughout the world since 1901 in time of peace and war." [8] After her appointment she asked to be dropped off at the army officers' club front entrance, countering the prevailing occupational sexism. Although entitled to enter and use the club before, female officers were expected to come through the side entrance. [18]

Hays made a number of recommendations regarding the treatment of women, which were accepted into military policy, including not to automatically discharge officers for becoming pregnant and not to determine appointments to the Army Nurse Corps Reserve based on the age of the nurse's dependents. [13] In addition, regulations were changed to allow spouses of female service members to claim similar privileges to spouses of male service members. [10]


In addition to the military honours Hays received, her service was also recognised in the community; in 2015, Lehigh and Northampton counties named the Coplay-Northampton Bridge after her. In 2012, she was named to Lehigh County’s Hall of Fame. In November 2017, she was presented with a Flag of Valor quilt during a Veterans Day ceremony at Knollwood. [2]

Personal and later life

She married William A. Hays, in July 1956, who directed the Sheltered Workshops that provided jobs for disabled people in Washington D.C. [5] William died in 1962/63. [6] [11] [5]

Hays died at Knollwood Retirement Facility, [4] in Washington, D.C. on January 7, 2018 of complications from a heart attack, at the age of 97. [5] [1] She could have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but she had chosen instead to be buried with her father in Grandview Cemetery in South Whitehall Township. [2] Three days later, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf ordered the state flag at the Capitol Complex and at all state facilities in Allentown to fly at half staff in honor to her passing. [19]


U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Army of Occupation ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Korean Service Medal - Ribbon.svg
United Nations Korea Medal ribbon.svg
1st Row Distinguished Service Medal [2]
2nd Row Legion of Merit w/ OLC Army Commendation Medal American Campaign Medal
3rd Row Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ one service star World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal
4th Row National Defense Service Medal w/ OLC Korean Service Medal w/ three service stars United Nations Korea Medal

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Smith, Harrison (8 January 2018). "Anna Mae Hays, nurse who became U.S. military's first female general, dies at 97". The Washington Post.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Venditta, David. "Allentonian Anna Mae Hays, first female General in U.S. armed forces, dies at 97". Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  3. Frank 2013, p. 279.
  4. 1 2 "Obituary Anna Mae Hays".
  5. 1 2 3 4 Roberts, Sam (10 January 2018). "Anna Mae Hays, 97, U.S. Military's First Female General, Dies". The New York Times.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "History's Headlines: General Anna Mae McCabe Hays, Lehigh Valley patriot". 69 WFMZ-TV News. 27 May 2016.
  7. 1 2 3 Witt 2005, p. 198.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Anna Mae Hays". 2011-09-27. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  9. 1 2 News, 69 (2018-01-08). "Allentown's Anna Mae Hays, U.S. Army's first female general, dies at age 97". WFMZ. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Hawks, Jeff. "Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays – Army Heritage Center Foundation". Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  11. 1 2 3 Keller, Jared (9 January 2018). "Anna Mae Hays, The US Military's First Female General, Dies At Age 97". Task & Purpose.
  12. 1 2 Sarnecky, Mary T. "Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays 13th Chief, Army Nurse Corps". Army Nurse Corps Association. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Meet the First Female General in the U.S. Armed Forces". Time. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  14. 1 2 "ANC History --Anna Mae Hays". 2006-03-21. Archived from the original on 2006-03-21. Retrieved 2018-01-08.
  15. Cox Matthew (10 January 2018). "First Female General, Who Served as Army Nurse in 3 Wars, Dies at 97".
  16. 1 2 3 Frank 2013, p. 280.
  17. 1 2 Frank 2015, p. 280.
  18. Geoff Watts [Obituary Anna Mae Hays] Lancet, 17 February 2018 DOI:
  19. "Gov. Wolf orders flags at half staff to honor former general Anna Mae Hays". The Morning Call. 10 January 2018.