Black History Month – Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN

The Intellectual Revolution presents…

Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN

Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN was the first black professional nurse in America. On March 3, 1878, she was accepted into New England Hospital’s graduate nursing program.  During her training, Mahoney participated in mandatory sixteen-hour-per-day ward duty, where she oversaw the well-being of six patients at a time.  Days not requiring ward duty involved attending day-long lectures while simultaneously devoting time to her studies.  Completing the rigorous sixteen-month program on August 1, 1879, Mahoney was among the three graduates out of the forty students who began the program and the only African-American awarded a diploma. She would work as a nurse for the next four decades, and during her forty-year career she attracted a number of private clients who were among the most prominent Boston families. Known for her calm and quiet skill, she nonetheless mounted the stage at a 1909 nursing conference in Boston to call for direct action to correct the stark inequalities faced by African-American nurses. Mary Mahoney was widely recognized within her field as a pioneer who opened the door of opportunity for many black women interested in the nursing profession.

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