Maj. Gen Jeanne Holm

“In the military a racist is not allowed to act like one, but it’s sort of winked at to be a sexist.”

Maj. General Jeanne Holm became the first woman in any branch of the armed services to reach the rank of a two-star general. She was also the first woman to attend the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jean Klick said of Holm, “I can say in absolute candor and honesty that we wouldn’t have women in the Air Force without Jeanne Holm.”

Born in Portland, Oregon, Holm enlisted in the services in 1942, after Congress established the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). At the end of WWII she returned to civilian life and graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, but remained a reservist. In 1948, she was recalled to active duty. Holm was eventually promoted to the rank of colonel and was appointed the director of women in the United States Air Force (WAF). Here, she was instrumental in fighting gender discrimination and opening opportunities for women in the Air Force. In 1970, she was promoted to General and in 1973, she received her second star.

She is credited for breaking boundaries and opening career opportunities for women in the Air Force. She is responsible for equalizing the playing field for women and allowing them eventually to become combat pilots (1993). She is the author of two books, Women in the Military: An unfinished Revolution and In Defense of a Nation: Servicewomen in WWII. In February on 2010, she died of pneumonia.