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Two Sisters Achieve Rank of General for the First Time in the U.S. Army's 244-Year History

The U.S. Army has many examples of brothers becoming generals; now, for the first time, a pair of sisters have both been named generals.

For the first time in the U.S. Army's 244-year history, a pair of sisters have both reached the rank of general! Brigadier General Paula Lodi joined her older sister Major General Maria Barrett in the generals' ranks after a promotions ceremony in July. It's a major milestone for women in military service, who remain significantly underrepresented in the Army, particularly in the higher ranks. "Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi represent the best America has to offer," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy in a statement. "However, this comes as no surprise to those who have known them and loved them throughout this extraordinary journey. This is a proud moment for their families and for the Army."

Barrett and Lodi had a role model for military service at home; their Italian immigrant father was a World War II veteran and a Silver Star recipient. He and their mother, who were both school teachers, emphasized the importance of public service to all five of their children. Growing up near Boston, Massachusetts, both sisters were used to excelling at whatever they chose to do. "She was a great athlete," observes Barrett, who now serves as deputy chief of staff for operations in the Army's Surgeon General's office. "I was probably more of a student."

Lodi set her sights on the military early, after seeing a documentary about the first female graduates of West Point. When she told her father, he encouraged her interest, solidifying her determination to pursue a military career. "If you're a little girl, and your father responds positively to something that you want to do with your life," Lodi says, "you tend to grab a hold of it." After she received her commission in the medical service, she originally planned on leaving the service after ten years but soon decided to make it her long-term career. "I don't know at what point probably four, maybe five years in," she reflects, "it just occurred to me, I absolutely loved what I was doing in the medical service corps."

Meanwhile, Barrett was planning a career in the State Department, but decided to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Tufts University to pay for college. There, she discovered a passion for military leadership and a knack for strategy; she's currently the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), where she manages and protects the Army's information networks. "When I talk to younger officers, I tell them the reason I joined is not the reason why I stayed," says Barrett. "Our democratic experiment, even on its most imperfect day, is worth defending."

Women were only permitted to join the Army as of 1901 with the establishment of the Army Nursing Corps, and even today women make up only 16% of America's active-duty military personnel — and 69 out of 417 generals and admirals. Lodi and Barrett, whose brother Rus Lodi calls "leadership junkies," say that they have seen progress for women firsthand. "The fact that we're sisters, not brothers, I think it's a huge illustration of how far we've come as a service," asserts Lodi. Now, the next generation of the family is also carrying on the tradition of women in military service; according to an Army spokesperson, "Lodi has two daughters that are in the Army.... She just drove one of them to basic training."

Books About Women in the Military

Hero Mom

Hero Mom

Written by: Melinda Hardin
Illustrated by: Bryan Langdo
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

The kids in this book declare, “Our moms are superheroes.” Why? Well, because she flies to the rescue in her helicopter, trains a bomb-sniffing dog, or saves lives in the medical complex. Some moms build tall buildings, or get everything exactly where it needs to go. The fun illustrations and simple text make this a fun read to remind children of military moms just how special their job is — or to teach children who aren’t familiar with the military about the many jobs that soldiers do. For a companion to this book featuring military dads, check out Hero Dad.

Heroism Begins With Her: Inspiring Stories of Bold, Brave, and Gutsy Women in the U.S. Military
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Heroism Begins With Her: Inspiring Stories of Bold, Brave, and Gutsy Women in the U.S. Military
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Written by: Winifred Conkling
Illustrated by: Julia Kuo
Recommended Age: 9 and up

From the first days of American history, women have served in the United States military — but too often, their contributions were minimized or overlooked. As Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers, they had to disguise themselves as men to fight, and even in the 20th century, they were often sidelined, even as they fought to break down barriers and prove they belonged alongside their male counterparts. In this beautifully illustrated book, author Winnifred Conkling introduces readers to courageous women past and present — from Harriet Tubman to Tammy Duckworth — who proudly joined the defense of their nation.

Women Heroes of World War II

32 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue

Women Heroes of World War II

32 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue

Written by: Kathryn J. Atwood
Recommended Age: 12 and up

During World War II, women around the world stood up to protect those they could, doing everything from transmitting radio messages from occupied France, to hiding Jewish families or smuggling them out of dangerous territory, to conducting sabotage missions throughout Europe. Kathryn J. Atwood tells some of their stories in this book, showing how these women, from many nations and backgrounds, each took tremendous risks to fight the battles that they were not permitted to fight on the front. A companion book, Women Heroes of World War II: The Pacific Theater, tells the stories of women's contributions in China, Japan, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines.

Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific

Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific

Written by: Mary Cronk Farrell
Recommended Age: 12 and up

World War II marked the first time American military women ended up in a prisoner of war camp — despite the fact that none of them were supposed to be in combat. This book tells the story of the 101 American Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines who were captured by the Japanese as prisoners of war. Through their years as near-starving POWs, they continued to care for the ill and the wounded — and yet, it was only in 1983 that any official recognition of the service was made. The gripping story of these women — all of whom remarkably survived the war — is sure to inspire! For a book about these courageous nurses for adult readers, we recommend We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Women Trapped on Bataan

Courageous Women of the Vietnam War

Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More

Courageous Women of the Vietnam War

Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More

Written by: Kathryn J. Atwood
Recommended Age: 12 and up

Over the course of the two decades of fighting in Vietnam, women played their own roles: as medics, journalists, resisters, and more. In this book from the Women of Action series, author Kathryn J. Atwood dives into the complex political history of the Vietnam War, and explores the lives of fourteen women whose lives were changed by this conflict. With suspenseful profiles and in-depth historical information, it's a detailed and engaging look at the often unexpected roles that women played, both during the Vietnam War and in the years afterward.

Women Heroes of the US Army: Remarkable Soldiers from the American Revolution to Today
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Women Heroes of the US Army: Remarkable Soldiers from the American Revolution to Today
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Written by: Ann McCallum Staats
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Since the founding of the United States, women have wanted to serve in the United States Army — and they were willing to break gender and racial barriers, and face skepticism and prejudice, to do so! In this book from the popular Women of Action series, teens will learn about bold women who took their place in the ranks during the Revolutionary War, World Wars I and II, and in the modern Army of today. It's sure to inspire girls who dream of their own time serving the country they love!

Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and On the Home Front

Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and On the Home Front

Written by: Mary Jennings Hegar
Recommended Age: Adults

After being selected for pilot training by the Air National Guard, Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar finished top of her class, served three tours in Afghanistan, and earned a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Flying Cross... but her hardest fight has been on home soil. Hegar was determined to end the US military’s Ground Combat Exclusion Policy, which prevents female armed service members from serving in official combat roles – even though they have done so unofficially for decades. In her book, Hegar takes a thrilling, humorous, and inspiring tour through her own life, showing how the same devotion to service that led her to join the military led her to fight for her fellow women in service.

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women At Home and At War

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women At Home and At War

Written by: Helen Thorpe
Recommended Age: Adults

Since 2001, America has been at war — and a sizeable percentage of American soldiers overseas have been women. But the life of a woman in the military, particularly on deployment, is not the same experience as that of a man. Outnumbered by the men in their units, they're simultaneously outsiders and also objects of desire; at home, they're faced with questions about why they would leave the safety of their expected roles to be soldiers. Author Helen Thorpe explores the lives of three women over twelve years in this moving examination of what it means to be a soldier girl.

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