By: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Destiny Cheek, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
When you think of the namesakes of Navy ships, they are often named for individuals who have served our Navy or our Nation. Although many of these ships have been named for men, the Navy also recognizes the amazing contributions of women. In honor of Women’s History Month, we take a look at a few of the ships named in honor of inspiring American women.
USS Higbee (DD 806)– Commissioned in 1945, this ship is the first combatant vessel to be named in honor of a woman of naval service. Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee was among the “sacred 20,” the first 20 women to formally serve as active members of the Navy. In January 1911, Higbee became the second superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps. Due to her effortless devotion to duty during World War I, Mrs. Higbee was the first woman awarded the Navy Cross. In 2016, the spirit of Lenah Higbee reared up once more to impact the U.S. Navy. Then Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced plans for USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123).
USS Hopper (DDG 70) – Commissioned in 1997, this guided-missile destroyer is named after Rear Adm. Grace Hopper. During World War II, Hopper joined the Navy Reserves and served in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). She was a pioneer in the field of computer science as she worked as a programmer for the Harvard Mark I computer during the ending years of World War II. Hopper was a valuable asset to the Navy due to her contributions to the Navy’s computing infrastructure and retired at the age of 79, as the oldest commissioned officer in the Navy. She was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
USNS Mary Sears (T-AGS 65) – Commissioned in 2001, USNS Mary Sears is a Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship. The ship is only the sixth ship of its class. Known for her oceanographer background, Sears was a commander in the United States Naval Reserve. She is well known for her participation in the development of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)– Commissioned in 2000, USS Roosevelt is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. She was named after the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady during his term of office. Eleanor Roosevelt was an American politician, diplomat and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady, having held the position from March 1933 to April 1945.
USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE 6) – Commissioned in 2008, USNS Amelia Earhart is a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship. Amelia Earhart is best known as an American aviation pioneer and women’s rights advocate. She was the first women to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. This ship carries ammo, food and other supplies to keep the Navy fully equipped when needed.
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LSC 10) – Commissioned in 2017, USS Gabrielle Giffords is an Independence-class littoral combat ship. Formerly an Arizona Democratic Congresswoman, Giffords served for five years before resigning from her position after being involved in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona. USS Gabrielle Giffords is the 16th naval ship to be named in honor of a woman.
Although we have only named a handful of ships named after notable women, there are many more! USS Pocahontas (NH 82957), USS Susan B. Anthony (AP 72), USS Sacagawea (YT 326), and RV Sally Ride (AGOR 28) are among the many that we reflect on – not only for Women’s History Month, but everyday these ships are underway serving in the Fleet. These ships and their crew solidify women’s impact in the military. The service of these ships guarantees Americans will continue to remember their legacies.