RI woman gets historic honor at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WPRI) — For the first time in its history, a street in the nation’s foremost military cemetery has been named in honor of a woman.

Arlington National Cemetery – as part of its $80 million expansion project – named Lewis Drive after Ida Lewis – a lighthouse keeper from Newport.

“It’s important to me that the cemetery reflect how the forces are made up. Of course, females are an incredibly important part,” said Maj. Shannon Way, strategic planner for Arlington National Cemetery.

Lewis – who was Newport Harbor’s Lime Rock Lighthouse keeper – is renowned for her bravery and credited with saving more than a dozen people from drowning.

“She became well known in America when in 1869 she rescued two soldiers whose boat had capsized in a snowstorm,” said Arlington historian Tim Frank. “She spent her life in service of saving others.

Even back then, Lewis was breaking barriers. In 1881, she became the first woman to receive the Coast Guard’s Lifesaving medal – the nation’s highest award for saving a life.

“The idea of having a space dedicated to that extraordinary amount of service that’s an incredible thing,” Way said.

Lewis Drive is part of a long-awaited expansion at Arlington which will add 27 acres of additional grave sites to the nation’s foremost military cemetery.

Lewis died in 1911.

The Lime Rock Lighthouse was renamed the Ida Lewis Rock Lighthouse in 1925. The lighthouse is now part of the private Ida Lewis Yacht Club.

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