Lenah Sutcliffe (later Higbee) was born on May 18, 1874, in Chatham, New Brunswick, Canada. She completed her training as a nurse at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899, and joined the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps as one of its first twenty members in October 1908. Higbee was promoted to Chief Nurse in 1909, and was appointed the second Superintendent of the Nurse Corps on January 20, 1911, leading the organization through its early years, including all of World War I. Chief Nurse Higbee retired from the Navy on November 30, 1922, and died on January 10, 1941. She was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross, and became the first female member of the Navy to have a U.S. Navy combat ship named after her when the destroyer USS Higbee (DD-806) was named in her honor in 1945.
Her Navy Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Superintendent Lenah Sutcliff Higbee, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps.