#WCW Mary Eliza Mahoney 1845-1926. 
The daughter of former slaves who moved to Boston, Mary attended one of the first integrated schools in the country. Mahoney had always wanted to be a nurse since her teenage years. She worked as a janitor, washerwoman, cook, and nurse’s aide at the New England Hospital for Women and Children until she was finally accepted into the nursing program in 1878 at 33 years old. The formal nursing training, one of the first in the nation, was a 16-month intensive program. Of the 42 women who started, only 4 completed it, including Mary Mahoney. This made her the first African-American registered nurse in the country. Mahoney choose to work as a private nurse for wealthier families because of the discrimination she faced at public hospitals. Facing more discrimination from nursing organizations, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908. She later became director of director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for African-American children. Ever the pioneer for equality, she is among the first women who registered to vote in Boston after passage of the 19th Amendment. 
Back to Top