Glenna Goodacre, a master of expressive, monumental bronze sculpture who created the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, honoring thousands of female veterans with the Mall’s first monument to American military women, died April 13 at her home in Santa Fe, N.M. She was 80.

Her death was announced on Instagram by Ms. Goodacre’s son-in-law, singer Harry Connick Jr., the husband of actress and former Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre Connick. Ms. Goodacre’s health had declined in recent years, said her manager, Dan Anthony, and she had been hospitalized in February for routine surgery.

Ms. Goodacre painted portraits before refashioning herself as a sculptor, working with clay from her Santa Fe studio despite no formal training in the medium. In a field long dominated by men, she became a prominent creator of public statues and memorials, accepting commissions from across the country even as some critics dismissed her work as saccharine or simplistic.

“I just plod along and do what I like to do — which are realistic figures,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. She had gone to art school when abstraction dominated, but she said she preferred figurative works and had little interest in pieces that could horrify or disturb. “I like art you can live with,” she added.

Her works include a 7-foot-6-inch sculpture of Ronald Reagan unveiled in 1998 at his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif. — “I must have done the mouth over a hundred times,” she said — and a 7-ton monument to the victims of the Irish famine, dedicated in Philadelphia in 2003. Stretching over 30 feet, the Irish Memorial features 35 life-size bronze figures, some starving in Ireland, others voyaging to the United States.

Another Goodacre design, the obverse (front side) of the Sacagawea dollar, was carried in the pocket of millions of Americans after the gold coin went into circulation in 2000, replacing the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Ms. Goodacre’s design showed Sacagawea, the Shoshone interpreter who accompanied Lewis and Clark, with her infant son. The U.S. Mint paid her $5,000 commission in sacks of the gold coins.

Ms. Goodacre was best known for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, a 6-foot-8 bronze sculpture of three uniformed women and a wounded serviceman, which has emerged as a refuge and gathering place for veterans, families and friends of the roughly 265,000 military women of the Vietnam era. About 10,000 women served in the country itself, including as nurses and intelligence analysts.

Dedicated on Veterans Day 1993, the memorial stands in a grove of trees near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which bears the names of more than 58,000 servicemen and eight women, all military nurses, who gave their lives in the conflict. The wall, designed by Maya Lin and dedicated in 1982, drew scathing criticism from some who deemed it too abstract and sorrowful. It prompted the installation of a more traditional and heroic sculpture, Frederick Hart’s “The Three Soldiers,” in 1984.

That same year, former Army nurse and Vietnam veteran Diane Carlson Evans founded the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project, seeking to honor and recognize the women who served and to educate the public about their role. Her efforts were initially opposed by groups including the federal Commission of Fine Arts, partly over concerns that the existing memorial would be compromised by any addition.

“To add a statue of a nurse to that extraordinary memorial — the central feature of this misguided proposal — would create a serious symbolic imbalance in one of the nation’s preeminent commemorative places,” Washington Post architecture critic Benjamin Forgey wrote in 1987.

But a “60 Minutes” report on women in Vietnam helped turn the tide in Evans’s favor, and in 1990, the project went forward with a design competition that drew submissions from 317 artists. Ms. Goodacre said she decided to submit a sketch only after talking with a former Vietnam War nurse who admired her sculptures in Santa Fe.

“When I studied the drawing,” Evans wrote in her book “Healing Wounds,” recalling Ms. Goodacre’s proposal, “it seemed to me that the artist had either been a nurse in Vietnam or had extra-sensory perception to understand what it had been like for us. . . . It had strength, hope, pain, despair, everything we experienced.”

At first, it was only an honorable mention. The board overseeing the design process named two co-winners, for a statue of a woman and a fountain spraying mist, and sought to combine them before turning to Ms. Goodacre’s proposal instead. Amid concerns over political controversy, they asked her to alter one of her original female figures, who was shown holding a Vietnamese baby.

The final version was a depiction of despair, hope and dedication, partly modeled after Michelangelo’s “Pietà.” Arranged around sandbags, one woman tends to a wounded serviceman while another looks toward the ground and the third gazes skyward, perhaps toward a helicopter or God, Ms. Goodacre said.

She had left some aspects intentionally vague, covering the wounded soldier’s face to make him anonymous, and said she was delighted by the result: Visitors who left roses on the sculpture annually or, on occasion, reached out to touch one of the figures she had carved.

“If someone is so moved by my piece that they want to put a hand on it and feel whatever they can,” Ms. Goodacre told People magazine in 1999, “what better compliment could you get?”

Raised in the Texas Panhandle, she was born Glendell Maxey in Lubbock, Tex., on Aug. 28, 1939. Her mother was a homemaker, her father a real estate developer who was elected to the city council.

She studied painting and zoology at Colorado College, thinking that she might parlay her skills as an “accurate draftsman of frog guts” into a career as a medical illustrator. But after receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1961, she married William Goodacre, a Canadian-born hockey player she met at school, and settled down to raise two children.

They settled in Lubbock, where Ms. Goodacre painted and sketched on the side before recommitting to art and studying at the Art Students League of New York in 1967. She had spent years resisting sculpture — a college professor told her she had no future in the discipline and gave her a D — but back in Texas, one of her friends, gallerist Forrest Fenn, handed her a hunk of wax and encouraged her to sculpt.

He went on to cast Ms. Goodacre’s first work in bronze, a six-inch sculpture of her daughter in a ballerina costume that Ms. Goodacre carved with a bobby pin, paring knife and toothpick. (Fenn also became notorious for claiming he buried a cache of gold and jewels in the Rocky Mountains, setting off a treasure hunt that has claimed the lives of at least five people searching in the wilderness.)

Ms. Goodacre and her family moved to Boulder, Colo., so that she could be closer to a bronze foundry. She moved to Santa Fe after her first marriage ended in divorce in 1983, and in 1995, she married C.L. Mike Schmidt, a Dallas lawyer.

In addition to her husband, of Santa Fe, and her daughter, of New Canaan, Conn., survivors include a son, Tim Goodacre of Boulder; and five grandchildren.

While Ms. Goodacre had long cultivated a realistic style, she said she moved “toward less and less detail in sculpture” by the time she developed her proposal for the Vietnam memorial. In an interview for the 2002 book “ ‘Let Me Tell You What I’ve Learned’: Texas Wisewomen Speak,” she recalled that while working on the sculpture, her chief assistant was focusing on the shoelaces of the boots, much to Ms. Goodacre’s chagrin.

“She had them just perfect,” Ms. Goodacre recalled. “Every time someone came in to see it, they would say, ‘Gosh it’s so real. Just look at those shoelaces.’ Well, after they had gone, I’d go mess up the shoelaces. I don’t want people to look at the shoelaces. I want them to look at what the piece is trying to say — the feeling of it.”

Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this obituary incorrectly reported where Ms. Goodacre died. It was in Santa Fe, N.M., not in Santa Fe, Calif. This article has been updated.