The first African-American Professional Nurse

Mary Mahoney made history as the first African-American Professional Nurse, yet many do not know her name. A strong woman, Mahoney, became a nurse despite severe societal limitations placed on black and minority women. She braved discrimination and worked toward equality for black and minority nurses and women. Early Life A pair of freed slaves traveled from North Carolina to Boston in the 1840s. Their daughter, Mary Eliza Mahoney, was born in the spring of 1845 in the free state of Massachusetts. Experts dispute her exact birthdate and birthplace. At ten, Mahoney went to one of the best schools in the city, the Phillips School. The Phillips School, named for father of abolitionist Wendell Philips, became one of Boston’s first integrated school in 1855. Dreams of Being a Nurse In her teens, Mahoney realized she wanted to be a nurse. She started working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children (NEHWC). She worked as a cook, janitor, a laundress, and a nurse’s aide. NEHWC operated one of America’s first nursing schools. But white hospital-based nursing schools routinely excluded African American nursing students. The only exceptions were when a select few African Americans were admitted to meet “rigidly enforced […]