Since there are so many facets of the history that people of African descent have made in this country, I’ve decided to continue my “Black History 365″ series from my poetry blog here on my AfrocentriqueAZ blog. I’ll be posting a new “First Black” every Wednesday. This week is Mary Eliza Mahoney
Mary Eliza Mahoney (April 16, 1845 – January 4, 1926) was the first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879.
In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms. The NACGN eventually merged with the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1951. She is commemorated by the biennial Mary Mahoney Award of the ANA for significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.
Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Mary Eliza Mahoney worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now the Dimock Community Health Center) for fifteen years before being accepted into its nursing school, which was America’s first.
The Hospital was founded by women doctors in 1862. It started its nurse training program in 1872 with forty two students, only four actually graduated, including Linda Richards, who graduated as the first formally educated nurse in the United States.
After gaining her nursing diploma in 1905, Mahoney worked for many years as a private care nurse, earning a distinguished reputation. From 1911 to 1912 she served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island, New York.
In 1896, Mahoney was one of the original members of a predominantly white Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada. In 1911 it became the American Nurses Association (ANA). In 1908 she was cofounder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN).
In retirement, Mahoney was still concerned with women’s equality and a strong supporter of women’s suffrage (the movement to gain women the right to vote.) In 1920, she was among the first women in Boston to register to vote. She died on January 4, 1926, aged 80.