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Mary Eliza Mahoney – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American woman to complete nurse’s training in the United States, and an active organizer among African American nurses.

Born in Boston in 1845 to freed slaves, Mahoney knew early on that she wanted to become a nurse; however, Black women in the 19th century often had a difficult time becoming trained and licensed nurses. Nursing schools in the South rejected applications from African American women, whereas in the North, though the opportunity was still severely limited, African Americans had a greater chance at acceptance into training and graduate programs.

At the age of 18, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. The NEHWC became the first institution to offer a program allowing women to work towards entering the healthcare industry, which was predominantly led by men. Despite the NEHWC’s progressiveness, Mahoney worked there as a cook, maid, and washerwoman for 15 years before she was admitted as a student.

In 1878, at age 33, she was accepted in that hospital’s nursing school, the first professional nursing program in the country. Mahoney graduated in 1879 as a registered nurse. Out of a class of 42 students, she and three white women were the only ones to receive their degree – the first Black woman to do so in the United States.

After receiving her nursing diploma, Mahoney worked for many years as a private care nurse, earning a distinguished reputation. She worked for predominantly white, wealthy families and the majority of her work was with new mothers and newborns. Families who employed Mahoney praised her efficiency in her nursing profession. Mahoney’s professionalism helped raise the status and standards of all nurses, especially minorities. During the early years of her employment, African American nurses were often treated as if they were household servants rather than professionals. Mahoney refused to take her meals with household staff to further dismiss the relation between the professions. As Mahoney’s reputation quickly spread, she received private-duty nursing requests from patients in states in the north and along the south east coast.

In 1896 Mahoney became one of the first black members of the organization that later became the American Nurses Association (ANA). When that later organization proved slow to admit black nurses, Mahoney strongly supported the establishment of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (N.A.C.G.N.), and delivered the welcome address at that organization’s first annual convention, in 1909. In her speech, she recognized the inequalities in her nursing education, and in nursing education of the day. The NACGN members gave Mahoney a lifetime membership in the association and a position as the organization’s chaplain.

In retirement, Mahoney was still concerned was deeply concerned with women’s equality and a strong supporter of the movement to gain women the right to vote. When that movement succeeded with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, she was among the first women in Boston to register to vote — at the age of 76.

Mahoney contracted breast cancer in 1923 and died in 1926. In 1936, the N.A.C.G.N. established an award in her honor (later continued by the A.N.A.) to raise the status of black nurses. She was inducted into the A.N.A.’s Hall of Fame in 1976.

Information and photo sources:

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-mahoney

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/partners-african-american-medical-pioneers/

Susie King Taylor – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

We will be continuing our #DiversityInHealthcare series in 2021 with monthly posts.

Susie King Taylor is recognized as the first African American Army nurse.

Taylor was born into slavery in 1848 Georgia. She attended two clandestine schools in order to learn to read and write as a child. At the age of 14, she joined the US Army’s first black regiment, initially as a laundress. Her accomplishments soon became apparent, however, and she quickly moved on to other responsibilities, including serving as a nurse and a teacher. She taught many of the soldiers, who were former slaves, how to read.

While history has often omitted the contributions of Black Americans in the Civil War, we are fortunate to have more detailed information on Susie King Taylor. This is because she wrote and published a memoir about her experiences in 1902 entitled Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers.

Info sources: https://www.nps.gov/people/susie-king-taylor.htm; https://www.loc.gov/ghe/cascade/index.html?appid=5be2377c246c4b5483e32ddd51d32dc0
Photo source: Library of Congress via https://www.nps.gov/people/susie-king-taylor.htm

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail was born in Montana in 1903. She graduated from Boston Hospital’s School of Nursing with honors in 1923, making her the first person of Apsáalooke (Crow) descent to become a registered nurse.

Generations of indigenous American* children were sent to boarding schools where they were expected to give up their language, beliefs, and traditions. However, Yellowtail closely held onto her Apsáalooke culture throughout her life, marrying a religious leader, creating intricate traditional beadwork, and advocating for tribal healers’ ability to see patients.

Her career as a nurse was spent in service to indigenous Americans – both members of the Apsáalooke tribe and beyond. She documented healthcare injustices and advocated for improvements to the Indian Health Service. Among her many awards and recognitions, she received the President’s Award for Outstanding Nursing from John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail passed away in 1981, and has since been inducted into both the Montana and the American Nurses Association Halls of Fame.

*We have used the term “indigenous American” with the recognition that appropriate terminology used to refer to these diverse peoples is an ongoing discussion.

Info sources: http://montanawomenshistory.org/susie-walking-bear-yellowtail-our-bright-morning-star/; https://mhs.mt.gov/Portals/11/education/Montanans/yellowtail2.pdf

Photo source: http://montanawomenshistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/023WHM-PAc-87-71-Tom-and-Susie-Yellowtail.jpg

Hazel Johnson-Brown – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Hazel Johnson-Brown graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing before joining the Army in 1955, soon after the official end of segregation in the armed forces. In 1979, she became the first black chief of the United States Army Nurse Corps, as well as the first black female brigadier general. The Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901 and is comprised of registered nurses. It is the nursing arm of the Army Medical Department.

After retiring from the military, Johnson-Brown worked in academia at Georgetown University and George Mason University, where she pursued an interest in health policy. She retired from her academic career in 1997.

Information and photo source: https://www.army.mil/africanamericans/profiles/johnson.html

Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde – #DiversityInHealthcare

Diversity in Healthcare

Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde, PhD, RN, FAAN, is best known as the founder of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

Born in Panama in 1920, Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde arrived in the U.S. in 1945 and began her nursing career in San Antonio, Texas. Despite the largely Hispanic population of San Antonio, she found few Hispanic nurses serving the community.

This experience promoted her determination to obtain a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing at New York’s Columbia University. She continued with her education and obtained a Master and Doctorate. In 1971, Dr. Murillo-Rohde was the first Hispanic nurse awarded a PhD from New York University.

In the 1970s Dr. Rohde secured a federal position reviewing research and educational grants. She encountered the same experience as in San Antonio: no Latina nurses in academic settings in research or in public policy, and she was motivated to make change.

Murillo-Rohde became an associate dean at the University of Washington and was the first Hispanic nursing dean at SUNY. Murillo-Rohde founded the National Association of Spanish-Speaking Spanish-Surnamed Nurses (NASSSN), known as the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) after 1979, and served as its first president.

Dr. Murillo-Rohde was dedicated to the Hispanic population in her work as a psychiatric nurse and focused on cultural awareness in nursing practice. Her vision was to assist Latinas in securing their education to provide service to their community and in helping themselves.

Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde passed away in 2010 in her native Panama. NAHN awards a scholarship and an educational excellence award in her honor.

Info sources: https://www.nahnnet.org/NAHN/About/History/NAHN/Content/History.aspx?hkey=45d72c12-d9fb-4a57-860a-5053827c9649
http://nahnnet.org/NAHN/Content/Ildaura_Murillo-Rohde.aspx

Photo source: http://nahnnet.org/NAHN/Content/Ildaura_Murillo-Rohde.aspx

Post written by Stefanie Lapka.