Nurses in the Military

Who was the first African-American woman to become brigadier general in the army?

In 1985 Sherian Grace Cadoria (1943–) became the first black woman to be given the rank of brigadier general in the regular U.S. Army and the first black woman to command a male battalion. That same year she became the first black woman director of manpower and personnel for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cadoria served as one of four women army generals. Her tours of duty included service in Vietnam. She held key posts with the Law Enforcement Division and the Criminal Investigation Command. She retired from the army in 1990. Cadoria’s route to advancement in the army was unlike that of many of her women colleagues, who were able to advance through the nursing corps; she advanced through her involvement with the military police. She was born in Marksville, Louisiana, where in the 1940s she had to walk five miles to school rather than run the risk of riding the bus. She graduated from Southern University in Louisiana in 1961 and enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). This led to another “first” for her: she was the first black woman to attend the army’s Command and General Staff College, from which she received a diploma in 1971. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a diploma from the U.S. War College (where she was, again, the first black woman to attend); she also studied at the National Defense University Institute of Higher Defense Studies. Cadoria’s rise through the ranks was accompanied by the frustrations encountered because of her race and her gender—white racism in the South and the army’s stereotypical belief that there were army jobs women could not do. Her last army assignment, which began in 1987, was as Deputy Commanding General and Director for the U.S. Total Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, Virginia. During her almost thirty-year army career, Cadoria received many medals and commendations, including three Bronze Stars. She returned to Louisiana when she retired, where she organized the Cadoria Speaker Service.

U.S. Army Brigadier General Sherian Grace Cadoria became the first black woman to command a male battalion in 1985.


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