Mary Mahoney: The First African-American Nurse Graduate

866 Words Jun 24th, 2018 4 Pages
Life in Boston Massachusetts in the 1900’s was extremely hard and strenuous.

Automobiles were beginning to appear on the dirt roads, telephone service was starting to make

its way into the homes of the fortunate few, while most of the of the population was still living

without running water and electricity. Education was generally meant for the white children as

African Americans schools had fewer books, poorly paid teachers and school buildings that were

run down. Although the African Americans were no longer slaves, they were still treated as sub-

citizens and fighting for equality. Through this enduring strife, there were pioneers that pathed

the way for future minorities to live out their dream. One of those
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These were strenuous times as her shifts were lengthy 16-hour several days a week. Despite

long hard hours, Mary’s focus never waivered. She loved what she was doing and was

determined more than ever to complete the program. On August 1, 1879, Mary received her

nursing certificate. Not only was she the first African American to receive a nursing certificate,

she was one of four students out of the original 40, that successfully completed the program. The

other students were all white.

Mary spent the next 30 years working as a private nurse and still managed to have time

to supervise at the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island. Most

importantly, she strived to promote further access for women of color and open the doors of

opportunity. This passion led her to cofound the National Association of

Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908.

Mary spent 40 years as a dedicated and professional member of society until her death

on, January 4, 1926, of breast cancer. Although she was never recognized for her contributions

while she was alive, many awards and acknowledgements have been proclaimed in her honor

since her death. “Every nurse knows about Mary Mahoney,” says Harriet Brathwaite, AAS,

MSN, RN, the 2004 recipient of the Mary Mahoney Award. “I first had heard about her before I

ever became a nurse. She is one of those icons in
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