A crack in the Army's glass ceiling

Pending Senate approval, Lt. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody will become America's first female four-star general.

Published June 24, 2008 6:42PM (EDT)

We may have to wait a while for another viable female presidential candidate, but there's still good news on the glass ceiling front: Lt. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody is set to become America's first female four-star general. The Pentagon announced Monday that President Bush nominated her to serve as head of the Army's supply arm. Once approved by the Senate, she'll be the first woman in the United States to have achieved the rank of full general.

Dunwoody, who comes from a serious military family (her father, grandfather, great-grandfather, sister, brother and husband have all served), is a native of New York who was commissioned as an officer in 1975. In 2005, she became the Army's top-ranking woman when she received her third star and became deputy chief of staff for Army logistics (she has since been joined by Lt. Gen. Kathleen Gainey, who's the director of logistics on the Joint Chiefs of Staff). In her new position, she'll be chief of the Army Materiel Command, which is responsible for supplying the Army with all its equipment. According to the Los Angeles Times, Dunwoody has long been considered a top candidate for the first four-star female appointment, a rank that is particularly difficult for women to achieve, since the path to four-star status usually involves combat jobs, which women are not allowed to hold.

"I grew up in a family that didn't know what glass ceilings were," Dunwoody said, upon hearing that she'd been nominated. "This nomination only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career ... that doors continue to open for men and women in uniform." Granted, those doors have been opening slowly: The last similar milestone for women in the American Army came nearly 11 years ago, when the first female three-star general was appointed as head of Army Intelligence (the first two female Army one-stars were named 38 years ago). But they're opening, nonetheless. Congratulations.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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