Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N.
First Black Nurse

Mary Mahoney was the first African-American woman to complete the course of professional study in nursing.

Mahoney was born in Boston in 1845. She was employed as a cook and cleaner at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, but she had a greater vision for herself and was determined to move beyond domestic work. In 1878, she applied and was accepted to the hospital's nursing school

She graduated from the rigorous program in 1879, one of only a handful of students from the original class to graduate that year. Her graduation marked a new era for the education of African-American nurses in Boston. From that time on, Black students were accepted into the program as long as they were able to meet its requirements. (Source:

Mahoney recognized the need for African-American nurses to combine forces in order to improve their status in the profession. In 1908, she co-founded with Adah B. Thoms the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), and was the speaker for the organization's first annual convention in 1909. The NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1951.

(Note that the archival records of the NACGN are held at the New York Public Library. Click here to learn more.)

In 1921, helped to bring about the reception of Ms. Thoms and a group of African-American nurses to the White House during the NACGN Convention in Washington, D.C., where they met President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. (Thoms had worked with Jane Arminda Delano, Chairman of the American Red Cross Nursing Service, to convince the Surgeon General to enroll black nurses in the Army Nurse Corps. Though African-American nurses enrolled in July 1918, it wasn't until after the war was over that 18African-American nurses were appointed to the Army Nurse Corps.)

From 1911 to 1912 Mahoney served as supervisor of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children in Kings Park, Long Island. After her return to Boston, she is reputed to have been one of the first women in that city to register to vote after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

Ten years after her death in 1926, the NACGN honoured her memory by establishing the Mary Mahoney Medal, an award to a member for distinguished service to the profession.

Mahoney was named to the Nursing Hall of Fame in 1976 and to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

LEARN MORE (click link to title below)
Davis, Althea T. Early Black American Leaders in Nursing: Architects for Integration and Equality

1 comment:

Top 5 US States For Registered Nurses said...

Mary Eliza Mahoney was a great nurse in the history and she was the first black nurse who completed the course of professional study in nursing.