Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 7th 1845 to recently freed slaves from North Carolina. When she was 18 years she decided that she wanted to become a nurse. She began studying and by 1878 at the age of 33 she was accepted to the New England Hospital for Women and Children nursing school making her the first Black professional nurse in the US. This was also the first professional nursing program in America as well. By 1950 the hospital was equipped to handle male patients. Out of 42 students that started training she was one of the four that actually graduated. This training required a year working at the hospital's surgical, maternity, and medical wards as well as attend lectures. Oh, and they had to work as private nurses for four months.
Mahoney was known by the families that she worked for privately for her calmness and professionalism. During this time, you know, the 1800's and all, she was also required to do household tasks as well as nurse. She was like “Pffft!” and didn't eat her meals with the staff. Her reputation grew and she started getting requests to work all around the country. She later became one of the first Black members of the American Nurses Association and when they were taking too long to bring in more Black nurses she supported the creation of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. For the next ten years she helped recruit nurses and by 1910 the number of Black women nurses was around 2,400. 1911 ran an orphanage in New York. She then fought for the right to vote for women and at the age of 76 was able to vote. She passed away in 1936 of breast cancer and a few years later the number of Black nurses doubled. She was inducted into the A.N.A Hall of Fame in 1976.
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