🌟👩🏿⚕ Honoring Black Excellence in Nursing and Nursing Homes this Black History Month!
As we celebrate the rich tapestry of Black history, let’s take a moment to recognize the remarkable contributions of Black nurses throughout history.
From pioneers like Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first African American professional nurse, to contemporary leaders breaking barriers in healthcare, their dedication and expertise have shaped the nursing profession.
Mary Eliza Mahoney (May 7, 1845 – January 4, 1926) was the first African-American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States. In 1879, Mahoney was the first African American to graduate from an American school of nursing.
In 1908, Martha Minerva Franklin and Adah B. Thoms, two of Mahoney’s colleagues, met in New York City to found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Mahoney, Franklin, and Thoms worked to improve access to educational and nursing practices and to raise standards of living for African-American registered nurses. The NACGN played a foundational role in eliminating racial discrimination in the registered nursing profession. An increase in the acceptance of Black women into notable medical positions, as well as the integration of the NACGN with the American Nurses Association, prompted the dissolution of the organization in 1951.
Mahoney received several honors and awards for her work. She was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.
Early Life and Education
Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in 1845 in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Mahoney was the eldest child, with one of her siblings dying in early childhood.
Mahoney knew from a young age that she wanted to be a nurse, possibly due to seeing immediate emergence of nurses during the American Civil War. Mahoney was admitted into a sixteen-month program at the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now the Dimock Community Health Center) in 1878 at the age of thirty-three, alongside thirty-nine other students. Out of a class of forty, Mahoney and two white women were the only students to complete the program and receive their degree. It is presumed that the administration accepted Mahoney, despite not meeting the age criteria, because of her connections to the hospital through prior work as a cook, maid, and washerwoman there when she was eighteen. Mahoney worked nearly sixteen hours daily for the fifteen years that she worked as a hospital laborer.
The intensive program consisted of long days with a 5:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M. shift, which required Mahoney to attend lectures and lessons to educate herself through instruction of doctors in the ward. These lectures consisted of nursing in families, physiological subjects, food for the sick, surgical nursing, child-bed nursing, disinfectants, and general nursing. Outside of the lectures, students were taught bedside procedures, such as taking vital signs and bandaging. In addition, Mahoney worked for several months as a private-duty nurse.
Awards and Honors
In recognition of her outstanding example to nurses of all races, the NACGN established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936. When NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association in 1951, the award was continued. Today, the Mary Mahoney Award is bestowed biennially by the ANA in recognition of significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.
Other honors include:
• Mary Mahoney Memorial Health Center, Oklahoma City
• Mary Mahoney Lecture Series, Indiana University Northwest
• Honoring Mary Eliza Mahoney, America’s first professionally trained African-American nurse. House of Representatives resolution, US Congress, April 2006 H.CON.RES.386
• The Mary Eliza Mahoney Dialysis Center stop on the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail
• American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976
• National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993
Black Excellence in Nursing Homes
In nursing homes, Black nurses have played pivotal roles in providing compassionate care, advocating for resident rights, and promoting cultural competency. Their commitment to excellence and equity has enriched the lives of countless residents and their families.
This Black History Month, let’s celebrate the legacy of Black nurses and their profound impact on nursing homes and healthcare. Their resilience, compassion, and leadership inspire us all.