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Mary Eliza Mahoney

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Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N.

First Black Nurse


The year 1845 was a year of new beginning. On March 3, 1845, Florida becomes the 27th State admitted to the Union. On May 29, 1845, Wisconsin becomes the 28th

State admitted to the Union. On December 29, 1845, Texas becomes the 29th State to the join the Union. On Tuesday, March 4, 1845, Former Tennessee Governor and Speaker of the House, James Knox Polk, becomes the President of the United States of America and Morse code, invented 2 years earlier, transmits the news. April 4, 1845, George Dallas becomes the 11th Vice President of the United States. Congratulations are all around.

On May 7, 1845, Charles and Mary Jane Mahoney welcomed the addition of a baby girl to the family, Mary Eliza Mahoney. Perhaps not as widely publicized as these other events, but with congratulations nonetheless. A new beginning for Black women of America arrives. The new baby girl would become the First Black Registered Nurse in America.

Her parents had moved from North Carolina, a slave state, to Massachusetts, which was a free state. It would not be until January 31, 1865 that Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery in the United States.

Children like Mary usually went into the domestic line of work. Mary chose different. She chose nursing. In 1872, Dr. Marie Zakrzewska had helped to establish the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now Dimock Community Health Center). Mary Eliza Mahoney, a ninety pound women, worked there for fifteen years as a maid and did chores such as wash women, cooking, scrubbing, and ironing for sixteen hours a day seven days a week. In 1878, at thirty-three years old, Mary became one of forty women to enroll in the first professional nursing program for women. Ironically, her duties included scrubbing, cooking, cleaning, along with her studies.

Forty students enrolled in the sixteen-month program, which consisted of working on the medical, maternity, surgical wards, and private duty in patients' homes. In 1879, Mary Eliza Mahoney was one of the four graduates out of forty students. At age thirty-four, Mary Eliza Mahoney, became the first Black to receive her nursing diploma. She then registered with the Nurses Directory in Boston and worked for thirty years as a private care nurse. Mary Eliza Mahoney built her reputation as a distinguished, efficient private nurse and traveled along the eastern states.

In 1896, Mary Eliza Mahoney joined the American Nurses Association (ANA) as one of the first members. In 1908, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the co-founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) and gave the welcoming address at the first meeting. In 1911, she became a lifetime member of the association where she served as chaplain. She recognized the need for nurses to work together to improve the status of blacks in the nursing profession. President Warren G. Harding received nurses at the White House partly due to the efforts of Mary Eliza Mahoney. In the same year, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the Director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black Children in Kings Park, Long Island, New York until 1912.

In 1921, she campaigned for women suffrage and after the ratification



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