In honor of Black History Month, we want to honor the first professionally trained licensed nurse, Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926).
In 1878, at the age of 33, Mahoney was admitted to The New England Hospital for Women and Children professional graduate school for nursing. The program was 16 months and very intense. Of the 42 students that entered the program in 1878, only four completed it in 1879. Mahoney was one of the women who finished the program, making her the first African American in the US to earn a professional nursing license.
Mahoney spent her career as a private duty nurse. She was known for her efficiency, patience, and caring bedside manner.
In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). At the NACGN’s first national convention, she gave the opening speech. The organization’s members elected Mahoney to be the national chaplain and gave her a life membership.
She finally retired from nursing after 40 years in the profession. However, she continued to champion women’s rights. After the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920, Mahoney was among the first women who registered to vote in Boston.
Mahoney lived until she was 80.
Mahoney’s pioneering spirit has been recognized with numerous awards and memorials.
The AHA further honored Mahoney in 1976 by inducting her into their Hall of Fame. Mahoney joined another esteemed group of women in 1993, when she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.