Saturday, February 18, 2012

Black History Month: Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)

First Black professional nurse in the United States (1879). Mary's parents moved from North Carolina to Boston, where she was born on April 16, 1845. In Boston, Negro children were not permitted to attend schools with Whites until 1855, and even in New England, domestic service was the only way for a Negro woman to make a living. Interested in a nursing career from the age of eighteen, Mary was a "nurse" for several prominent white families prior to entering formal nurse training. On March 23, 1878, she was the "first coloured girl admitted" (Medical and Nursing Record Book, 1878) to the nurse training program at the New England Hospital for Women and Children; she graduated sixteen months later at the age of thirty-four. (Note: Mahoney's biographer, Helen Miller, was associate professor of nursing research at North Carolina Central University.)

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