Edith Ellen Greenwood

Lieutenant Edith Ellen Greenwood (1920-1999) served with the United States Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during World War II. She was the first female recipient of the Soldier's Medal, an award she received for saving 15 patients.

Edith Ellen Greenwood
Lieutenant Edith Ellen Greenwood
Lieutenant Edith Ellen Greenwood
Born1920 (1920)
North Dartmouth, Massachusetts
Died1999 (2000) (aged 79)
Other namesLt. Edith Greenwood
Occupationdecorated Army nurse

Early lifeEdit

Greenwood was born in 1920 in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to Ellen E. (Pearson) and Frederick James Greenwood.[1] She attended St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in New Bedford, Massachusetts and graduated in 1941.[1]


Soldier's Medal

Greenwood began serving with the Army Nurse Corps on September 16, 1942. She was assigned to the 37th Station Hospital near Yuma, Arizona. This hospital was part of the Army’s Desert Training Center, California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA), that had been recently established by General George S. Patton. The center and hospital was set up at the beginning of 1943 to provide military personnel with special desert training needed for the war in North Africa. Greenwood received nurse's training from this center and hospital that simulated combat operations.[1]

On April 17, 1943, at a little after 6 in the morning a stove exploded in the hospital’s kitchen.[2] The blaze spread to the nearby ward where Greenwood was taking care of 15 patients.[3] She sounded the alarm and tried to put out the fire, but it spread quickly and the ward was totally ablaze within minutes. Greenwood removed all of her patients safely with the aid of Private James F. Ford, who did suffer some burn injuries.[3] Greenwood gave first aid to Private Ford after the patients were removed from danger.[4][5]

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered that both Greenwood and Ford were to be awarded the Soldier’s Medal.[6][7] The medal was given to a person in the armed forces for heroic conduct not involving conflict with the enemy.[8] The medals were presented by Brig. General Joseph Burton Sweet on June 10 and the awards were officially declared to the world by the War Department on July 15, 1943.[9] Greenwood was the first woman and nurse to receive the medal. In addition to the Soldiers Medal, Lieutenant Greenwood was also entitled to the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.[10][11][12][13]


  1. ^ a b c Frank 2013, p. 256.
  2. ^ Jackson 2006, p. 100.
  3. ^ a b Enlist in a proud profession, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943, p. 11, retrieved January 7, 2016, Second Lieutenant Edith Greenwood is the first woman and the first nurse ever to receive the Soldier's Medal for exceptional heroism not involving conflict with the enemy. Fifteen soldier patients at a U.S. Army desert training center in the Far West owe their lives to her quick, cool-headed action.
  4. ^ Sherrow 1996, p. 183.
  5. ^ Jackson 2006, p. 101.
  6. ^ Watson 2007, p. 124.
  7. ^ Frank 2013, p. 257.
  8. ^ "Nurse Awarded Soldier's Medal". The Muscatine News-Tribune (p. 3). Muscatine, Iowa. July 15, 1943 – via Newspapers.com  .
  9. ^ Howard, George W. (1985). "THE DESERT TRAINING CENTER/CALIFORNIA-ARIZONA MANEUVER AREA". The Journal of Arizona History. Arizona Historical Society. 26 (3): 273–294. JSTOR 41859644.
  10. ^ "Here are some of America's heroines of the year". The Lincoln Star (p. 36). Lincoln, Nebraska. January 30, 1944 – via Newspapers.com  .
  11. ^ "1st Soldier's Medal Awarded Woman". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. July 15, 1943. Retrieved January 9, 2016. Heroic conduct in saving patients from a hospital fire brought an army nurse, 2nd Lieut. Edith Greenwood. North Dartmouth, Mass. the first Soldier's Medal ever awarded a woman, the War Department announced today.
  12. ^ "Army Nurse Wins Soldier's Medal". Prescott Evening Courier. Prescott, Arizona. September 1, 1943. The first woman to win the Soldier's Medal also was an army nurse, Second Lieut. Edith E. Greenwood of North Dartmouth, Mass., who saved her patients in a hospital fire near Yuma, Arizona, last April 17.
  13. ^ The Army Nurse; Volume 1, Number 2, Washington, D. C.: Surgeon General's Office, February 1944, p. 3, retrieved January 6, 2016, Two other awards of the Soldier's Medal have been made to Army nurses, the first to Edith E. Greenwood, 2d Lieut, of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, for saving her patients from a hospital fire, and the second medal went to Margaret M. Decker, 2d Lieut, of Rockaway, N. J., who saved a soldier from drowning in the Colorado River.


  • Frank, Lisa Tendrich (2013). Women at War. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-443-6. Lieutenant Edith Ellen Greenwood served with the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during World War II and was the first female recipient of the Soldier's Medal.
  • Jackson, Kathi (1 March 2006). American Military Nurses. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-7627-3. When a hospital stove exploded, Edith Greenwood, ANC, removed 15 patients before their ward burned to the ground. Afterward, she provided medical treatment to a young private who had helped her with the removal of the patients.
  • Sherrow, Victoria (1996). Women and the Military. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-87436-812-3. In 1943, Edith Greenwood became the first person to receive the Soldier's Medal. Greenwood was a nurse at an army hospital in Yuma, Arizona. During a fire, she and an attendant safely evacuated all the patients on their ward.
  • Watson, Patrick (11 December 2007). Watson's WWII Almanac. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4691-0189-7. 1943 - The first woman to win a Soldier's Medal was nurse Edith Goodwood. She had saved patients under her care from a fire in Arizona.[self-published source?]