Lucy Minnigerode


Lucy Minnigerode, R.N., was the first Superintendent of Nurses in VA’s history. She was born on February 8, 1871 to an affluent Virginia family in Middleburg, Virginia, and later became a graduate of the Bellevue School of Nursing (NY) in 1898. After graduation, she worked at the Episcopal Eye and Ear Hospital in Washington, D.C., and Savannah Hospital in Georgia. In 1914 she became a Red Cross nurse and served as Supervisor of Unit C on the Red Cross Mercy Ship that was sent to Kiev, Russia, in 1915, during World War I (long before U.S. joined the war). Mercy ships took clothing, food, and medical supplies to countries ravaged by war, but the ships were targets for German submarines, so the work was extremely dangerous.

Afterwards, she became superintendent of nurses at Columbia Hospital (DC) before her reactivation with Red Cross nurse once the U.S. entered World War I. During the war, her intelligence and skills really shone. She helped recruit and train nurses for service overseas and implemented practical processes that won the respect of her peers. She was a highly respected leader who helped shape public nursing into a formally recognized profession and was awarded the Cross of Ste. Anne (Russia) and the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Red Cross Committee during her career.

In the spring of 1919, she was appointed as the Public Health Service’s first Superintendent of Nursing and she handpicked roughly 1,800 women to form its first nursing corps. Public Health Service nurses provided care to those afflicted by the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic as well as returning World War I veterans. The Public Health Service–along with its sister Treasury Department bureau, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance–was tasked by Congress in 1918 with providing hospitals and medical care to World War I veterans: this was a departure from the lifelong residential care provided by the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (VHA origins) since 1865. Matrons served as the first nurses at the National Homes until graduate nurses came onboard in the 1890s. Nurses at the National Homes were overseen by the Surgeon of each home.

The Bureau of War Risk Insurance, Public Health Service veterans hospitals, and Rehabilitation Division of the Federal Board for Vocational Education—programs for World War I veterans–were merged in August 1921 to create the Veterans Bureau. In April 1922, Public Health Service staff, veterans hospitals, clinics, and regional offices were transferred to the Veterans Bureau. Lucy Minnigerode remained with the Public Health Service while Mary A. Hickey, R.N., Public Health Service’s Assistant Superintendent of Nursing, became the first Superintendent of Nursing for the Veterans Bureau. Nearly 1,500 Public Health Service nurses were transferred to the Veterans Bureau effective May 1, 1922.

Lucy Minnigerode was a vital force in the nursing profession and devoted her entire life to helping others and those in her profession. She served as a chairperson for the Jane Delano memorial, built to honor Delano (1st Superintendent of Army Nurses Corps) and 296 nurses who died in World War I. She died suddenly on March 24, 1935 and is buried in Middleburg, Virginia.

Mercy Ships:
Jane Delano memorial:
World War I German submarine warfare:

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