Self-Guided Tour: Notable Women Buried in Arlington National Cemetery
This post is a self-guided tour of notable women buried in Arlington National Cemetery. We invite you to join us on an overview of Arlington National Cemetery tour led by one of our incredible guides – we offer this guided tour every week of the year.
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- Arlington National Cemetery Visitor Guide
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- Celebrate Women’s History Month in DC (March)
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Women in the military can seem like a modern advancement, but as these women show, we’ve had women nurses, doctors, and officers sacrifice in every war. Some of these incredible women, from wives of great Generals to combat pilots who were killed in action, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
This self-guided tour takes you around the cemetery as a whole to remember some notable women and their acts of selflessness and valor. There is no suggested route as the graves are spread through the entire cemetery and may be visited in any order based on your preference or in combination with other tours of Arlington National Cemetery.
Stop A: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis – Kennedy Memorials
Though Jackie remarried after her first husband’s assassination, she chose to be buried here next to her first husband, President John F. Kennedy. She died in 1994 from cancer. After JFK’s assassination, it was Jackie and his brothers who would choose the site for his burial and the eternal flame that now marks her grave. She had decided on an eternal flame less than 24 hours before the memorial service for her late husband.
During JFK’s presidency, Jackie became one of the most popular first ladies known for her sense of style but also her dedication to historic preservation and the arts. In the 1960s, she undertook a highly publicized restoration of the White House and helped spearhead the effort to protect the historic nature of Lafayette Square. Later in life, she would help preserve Grand Central Terminal in New York City. After being widowed twice with grown children, she took a job as a Book Editor.
Jackie is buried here with her husband, John F. Kennedy and two of their children who died prematurely.
Stop B: Juliet Opie Hopkins –Section 1, Grave 12-A
The “Florence Nightingale of the South”, Juliet Opie had married an Alabama lawyer and politician, Arthur Hopkins and moved South from her home in West Virginia. With the outbreak of the Civil War, they donated all they owned to the medical needs of the Confederacy.
Judge Hopkins was appointed to oversee Confederate hospitals and Juliet began to coordinate civilian efforts. She organized three tobacco farms to serve as hospitals, keeping in touch with patient’s families and maintaining supplies for the troops. Attending wounded soldiers on the battlefield, Juliet was injured at the Battle of Seven Pines.
At the end of the war, the family had lost most everything. Judge Hopkins would shortly pass away and Juliet moved to the only remaining property they owned, in New York. She lived the rest of her life in poverty.
Julie Opie Hopkins died in 1890. She was so regarded for her efforts during the Civil War she was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. Her pallbearers were Alabama congressmen and the attendant following the procession was General Joseph E. Johnston.
Stop C: Anita Newcomb McGee – Section 1, Grave 526-B
Anita Newcomb McGee completed her medical degree at Columbian College, which is now George Washington University, in 1892. For the next few years, she would be one of few practicing female physicians in DC.
With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, she was appointed the only women Acting Assistant Surgeon General in the US Army and was in charge of the Army nurses. She was the only woman permitted to wear an officer’s uniform. Her organizational skills, she had been Director of the DAR Hospital Corps, and connection to the military, her father was a rear admiral, McGee helped draft the Army Reorganization Act to create a permanent Army Nurses Corps.
She continued her work with the Society of Spanish American Nurses and led the effort to create a Spanish-American War Nurses Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The nearby memorial was dedicated in 1905.
McGee traveled with volunteer nurses to assist the Imperial Japanese Army in the Russo-Japanese War, inspecting hospitals and prisoner of war camps. Her group helped trained Japanese nurses and she was given the rank of Superior of Nurses, a rank that put her at the same level as Japanese officers.
After her death in 1940, McGee was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery next to her father, noted astronomer, Rear Admiral Simon Newcomb. Her grave is not far from the Spanish-America War Nurses Memorial she helped create.
She had been awarded the Spanish War Service Medal, the Japanese Imperial Order of the Precious Crown, The Japanese Red Cross decoration and two Russo-Japanese War medals from the Japanese government.
Stop D: Jane Delano – Section 6, Grave 21
Jane Delano, a distant relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, began nursing in 1888. She worked throughout the United States treating patients and education and organizing nurses through yellow fever and typhoid epidemics and the Spanish American war.
In 1909, she was named Superintendent of the United States Army Nurse Corps. Later, she also earned the position of president of the American Nurses Association and chair of the National Committee of the Red Cross Nursing Service. With connections in these three organizations, she combined their resources to create the American Red Cross Nursing Service.
With the outbreak of WWI, the American Red Cross Nursing Service had over 8,000 registered and trained nurses ready for emergency response. Jane was on a Red Cross Mission in France, headed to a conference of international Red Cross workers in Cannes when she died in April 1919. Her last words were “I must get back to my work.”
Jane Delano was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and re-interred a year later in Arlington National Cemetery Nurses’ section.
Stop E: Nurses Memorial and Spanish-American War Nurses Memorial – Section 21
The Spanish-American War Nurses Memorial is dedicated to those women who served and died in this short war. The Order of Spanish-American War Nurses dedicated this memorial in 1905 to the 13 women who died in the Spanish American War.
A six-by-seven foot rough-hewn granite stone has the Maltese Cross carved into the top, both front and back. The Maltese Cross is the emblem of The Order of Spanish-American War Nurses. Palm fronds, which hark back to the tropical battlefields of this war, shield the inscription, “To Our Comrades.”
The Spanish-American War was the first conflict in which nurses were organized into semi-military units. Prior to this war, military nurses were male but there were not enough volunteers. Like wars before it, many more men would die from disease than combat.
Most nurses remained in the United States. Only 76 were sent to Cuba, 30 to the Philippines, nine to Puerto Rico, six to Honolulu, and eight served aboard the hospital ship USS Relief. Those that died from disease abroad were later repatriated and were given the option to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, creating a “Nurses Section.”
Section 21 is the final resting place of Army, Navy and Air Force nurses. It is guarded by the 10 foot tall, Tennessee marble Nurses Memorial. At the edge of the evergreens, the image of the “Spirit of Nursing” was sculpted by Frances Right and dedicated in 1938 to Army and Navy nurses in WWI. In 1970, it was rededicated to honor all nurses from all branches of the military in all conflicts.
Stop F: Vinne Ream Hoxie – Section 3, Grave 1876
Vinnie Ream was only eighteen years old when she sculpted her most well-known piece – a full-size statue of Abraham Lincoln. She was the first and youngest woman to receive an artist’s commission from the government.
Lincoln modeled for her in the mornings for five months. The statue was unveiled and dedicated 5 years later in the United States Capitol Building rotunda, where it remains today.
She also sculpted the statue of Admiral David Farragut in Farragut Square, downtown DC, and that of Sequoyah, the first freestanding statue of a Native American. Sequoyah was Oklahoma’s contribution to the National Statuary Collection, also in the US Capitol Building.
When she died in 1914, her husband, Lt. Richard Hoxie, had her buried in Arlington National Cemetery (where he is now buried as well). Placed above her grave is a bronze copy of her statue, Sappho. Keen-eyed observers will notice a certain part of Sappho is a different color than the rest, due to the frequent number of people who touch it.
Stop G: Marie Rossi – Section 8 Grave 9872
Major Marie Rossi-Cayton was a CH-47 Chinook pilot with the 18th Aviation Brigade, commanding B Company, 2d Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment. In 1990, she was deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield.
The next year, March 1991, the day after the ceasefire was reached, Rossi would die in a helicopter crash.
Her headstone at Arlington National Cemetery says “First Female Combat Commander to Fly In Battle – Operation Desert Storm”
Stop H: Ollie Josephine Prescott Baird Bennett – Section 10, Grave 10938-LH
Ollie Josephine Prescott Baird Bennett was the first female medical officer commissioned in the US Army. She joined the US Army at the outbreak of WWI as a contract surgeon. She was told that the Army did not have uniforms for female surgeons and she was to design one herself.
She is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with the rank of first lieutenant. Besides army records and family oral history, not much is known about her yet.
Stop I: Hazel Johnson-Brown – Section 60, Grave 9836
As a young girl, Hazel Johnson-Brown was inspired to become a nurse but her application to nursing school was rejected because she was black. Not letting this stop her, she attended Harlem Nursing School in New York.
In 1955, not long after segregation was banned in the military, Johnson-Brown joined the United States Army serving as a staff nurse in Japan and chief nurse in South Korea.
She also served as Assistant Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing from 1976 to 1978 and as Director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing. When she was selected as Chief of the Army Nurses Corp, she was promoted to brigadier general in 1979, making her the first black woman general in the United States Army.
Stop J: Grace Hopper Section 59, Grave 973
Rear Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper was a pioneer in computer programming language. If you’ve ever “debugged” your computer, that term is something she is credited with coining after a moth was removed from the computer. The actual moth is kept in the group’s logbook at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
The diminutive mathematics professor had to get an exemption to enlist with the WAVES in WWII because she did not meet the Navy’s weight minimum. Hopper served in the Naval Reserves working on computer programming and language. It was here that she helped developed COBOL, an English based computer language used for business.
Hopper retired in 1966, again in 1971 – but they kept asking her to come back. She continued in active duty beyond standard retirement age until 1986 when she retired as Rear Admiral, as the oldest active-duty commissioned officer at the age of 79.
When she died in 1992 she was given full military honors upon her burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Stop K: Women in Military Service in America Memorial & Museum
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is located at the terminus of Memorial Avenue. The hemicycle was built in the 1930s to be a ceremonial entrance to the cemetery but was never used. By the 1980s when a memorial to those women who have served in the United States Armed Forces was approved, this building was in disrepair and ready to be re-purposed.
WIMSA is the only memorial dedicated to women in all eras and service branches. A skylight made of inscribed glass tablets includes quotes that cast shadows on the museum walls below. The memorial also acts as a museum and education center with rotating exhibits, a Hall of Honor, and a computer database. The Registrar includes records, photographs, and anecdotes from women in the military.
Women have been involved in the United States Military since 1775, but mostly as medical and support roles. With America’s involvement in WWI, the Navy allowed women to enlist in non-nurse positions for the first time. The first woman to enlist was Loretta Walsh, in 1917, but women were not legally made a permanent part of the military in 1948. Women in combat positions are still being integrated into various branches of the military after the ban on women in combat was repealed only last year.
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