2008 Firsts for Women from WowOwow

Ann Dunwoody, first female four-star general, women U.S. army
Susan Walsh/AP

Ann Dunwoody, First Woman to Become a Four-Star General in the US Armed Forces

November 30, 2009
by Emily Coakley
In November 2008, Ann Dunwoody became the first female four-star general in the United States military. Her promotion has been described as breaking “the brass ceiling” of the armed forces.

How She Got There

Ann Dunwoody was born in 1953 at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia where her promotion ceremony was held. According to the Associated Press, her family has a long history of military service: “This military clan has served the nation in virtually every major conflict since the 1700s, including the Revolutionary War, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.” Her brother, sister and niece are also in the military, serving in the Army and Air Force.

Dunwoody credits her childhood with helping her achieve her goals. “I never grew up in an environment where I even heard of the words ‘glass ceiling,’” the Las Vegas Sun quoted Dunwoody as saying. “[T]he glass was always half-full. You could always be anything you wanted to be, if you worked hard.”

What She Did

Gen. Dunwoody’s military service has taken her around the world. She served in the first Iraq War, and was stationed in Saudi Arabia and Germany.

She also had other firsts in the Army: Dunwoody was the first female battalion commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, according to AP. A few months before her promotion, Dunwoody became the first female deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command, which supplies soldiers throughout the world with their guns and other equipment.

She has received numerous medals, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s military blog reported, including “the Distinguished Service Medal, several Meritorious Service Medals, Kuwait Liberation Medals from service during Desert Storm, and a master parachutist badge.”

President George W. Bush nominated Dunwoody in June, and the Senate later confirmed the nomination.

Her achievement was something of a surprise to her, AP reported. “Thirty-three years after I took the oath as a second lieutenant, I have to tell you this is not exactly how I envisioned my life unfolding. Even as a young kid, all I ever wanted to do was teach physical education and raise a family,” Dunwoody said at her promotion ceremony.

Despite women being prohibited in ground combat service, a Las Vegas Sun editorial said, “Dunwoody’s promotion holds promise that the roles of female service members will continue to expand. For young women desiring a career in the military, the future now looks brighter.”

Most Recent Features