Ida Lewis is the first woman with a dedicated street in Arlington National Cemetery

Elizabeth Howe
September 06, 2018 - 3:15 pm

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Fraser

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In 154 years, none of the 40 roads within Arlington National Cemetery have been named for women — until today. This afternoon, Arlington National Cemetery officially dedicated their Millenium expansion and unveiled two new streets. One of these streets, Lewis Drive, is named for Ida Lewis, the first female commemorated with a street name in the national cemetery.

The $81.7 million expansion — and the first geographic expansion in 40 years — added 27 acres and 27,282 internment spaces, extending the life of the cemetery for a century. With the added acreage came new roads to dedicate.

The process for selecting which service members would receive the honor started in 2015 when senior enlisted advisors from each branch were asked to compile recommendations. In March 2016, the committee voted unanimously and the secretary of the Army approved the dedication of the streets named for U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan W. Gifford and Ida Lewis of the U.S. Lighthouse Service which was later absorbed into the U.S. Coast Guard.  

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Not only is Lewis the first female to be recognized with a street sign in Arlington National Cemetery, she is also the first member of the U.S. Coast Guard to receive the honor. In the late 1800s, Lewis saved at least a dozen from the waters of Newport, Rhode Island harbor during her lighthouse service.

“Military tradition honors individuals who perform an act of heroism. And today, we honor Ida Lewis,” said Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries Katherine Durham-Aguilera during the dedication ceremony. “Known even in her lifetime as the bravest woman in America, Lewis is today honored as both the first woman at Arlington to have a street named after her, as well as the first member of a Coast Guard affiliated organization to be thus honored.”

Gifford’s dedication carries its own significance. He is the first U.S. Marine to be recognized with a street name in Arlington National Cemetery. Gifford received the Navy Cross posthumously for heroic actions in Afghanistan.

“Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan William Gifford gave his life when he led a counterattack that routed the enemy in Afghanistan, saving many lives,” Durham-Aguilera said. “Gunnery Sergeant Gifford’s hallowed name lives on in noble company, as other American heroes will be laid to rest along the street which bears his name, and the first street at Arlington named after a member of the United States Marine Corps.”