Admiral Michelle Howard was given the status of First Female Four Star Admiralty member this summer, a national first on two fronts: gender and ethnicity.
Those are some mightily impressive Firsts. The 239-year United States Navy had never before given four stars to a female. She is also the highest-ranking African-American woman in a male-dominated military that did not even allow the promotion of women to general or admiral (of any number of stars) until 1967.
As she told the New York Times, speaking of her early attendance of the newly-Co-Ed Naval Academy,
“There were angry men at Annapolis, but we got through it,” she said. “And there were issues on the first few ships because it was all brand new. Change is hard in society.”
Melissa Harris-Perry was among the first to congratulate the Admiral, on her weekend MSNBC program recently.
The New York Times ran an evocative piece on Admiral Howard's epic move, excerpted below.
WASHINGTON — Adm. Michelle J. Howard was looking for new insignia for her white Navy dress uniform when she ran into an unusual problem.
“I said, ‘I need to order a four-star women’s shoulder board,’ and there’s this silence,” Admiral Howard recalled. “Then the lady goes, ‘Um, I’m not seeing any in the system.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I thought that might be the case.’
“I didn’t know it was possible to grow up to be anything more than a one-star,” Admiral Howard, 54, said in a recent interview, referring to the rank of rear admiral. She said today’s sailors “have never known a life when there hasn’t been a woman admiral, women three-stars, women in command of ships, women in command of destroyers.”