DCS: mary eliza mahoney

Spread the love

black history month 2020

The child of free blacks who moved North just prior to the Civil War, Mary Eliza Mahoney began working as an untrained practical nurse at twenty-years old. To supplement her income, Mary took on janitorial duties at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

In 1878, she was accepted into the New England Hospital’s graduate nursing program. During her 16-hour days, Mary tended to the needs of six different patients at one time, all while juggling attending lectures and completing written assignments. She eventually completed the grueling 16-month program. Mary was one of only three graduates who was there at the very beginning of the program and she was the only African-American awarded a diploma.  Upon her graduation Mary Mahoney became the first African-American graduate nurse.

For the next four deacdes, Mary worked as a nurse, mostly for private clients who were among Boston’s most prominent families. Public nursing, at the time, was rampant with discrimination against African-Americans.

Mary worked hard as a nurse and also as a leader for opportunities for African-American nurses. After a stirring speech at a 1909 Boston convention, Mary was made a lifetime member of the NACGN, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

Mary succumbed to breast cancer in 1926 at the age of 81. The Mary Mahoney Medal is awarded annually in recognition of excellence in nursing.



Leave a Reply