Our Nursing Heritage

Posted by MANS MNA Student Liaison on February 13, 2018 at 2:45 PM

February is the month we honor African American history. As fellow nursing students, I think it is only befitting to honor the first African American nurse to graduate from a formal nursing program and obtain a professional license. Her name was Mary Eliza Mahoney; she was one of the original 42 students admitted to the New England Hospital for Women and Children training school for nurses. At the age of 34, she became one of the only four graduates to complete the rigorous course successfully.

Mahoney did not stop there, she later became the director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Long Island, New York. In addition, she was a member of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada which later became the American Nurses Association (ANA). In 1908, she was the cofounder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). The NACGN later merged with the ANA in 1951. After nearly 40 years as a practicing nurse, Mary Mahoney retired but served the community in other ways. She joined alongside many others to fight for women’s equality. Once again, she became one of the first women to vote in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mahoney’s legacy to serve her community and to help those in need are qualities that describe all nurses. She not only inspired African Americans, she became an inspiration to the nursing profession. Her dedication and passion for nursing set a standard of practice we all believe in today. The NACGN originated an award in her name that the ANA continues to issue to nurses today. The Mary Mahoney award is given to an individual or a group of nurses that contribute in the advancement of equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.

ANA. (2018). American Nurses Association. Retrieved from ANA:

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