This year, National Black Nurses Day is Friday, February 1st, 2019. National Black Nurses Day was established 31 years ago as a tradition to recognize African American nurses, both RNs and LNPs, for their service, care, commitment, and for how much they add to the community.
According to publication, Minority Nurse, there are about 2,800,000 nurses in the United States. Of this, 23.8%, or 666,800, nurses are African American. In honor of National Black Nurses Day, we are going to highlight 3 notable black female nurses who paved the way in the nursing industry.
Mary Eliza Mahoney
Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American RN. She worked in a hospital for 15 years holding different jobs and working her way up the chain to become a nurse. She started as a cook, then became a janitor, then took the leap to become an unofficial nurses aid, and finally, a Registered Nurse. Out of the 40 students that started in her nursing program, she was one of only three nurses to make it through the New England Hospital graduate nursing program, and the only African American awarded a degree.
In 1908, Mary later went on to co-found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). This was so important because at the time, black nurses were not allowed to join the American Nursing Association (ANA), and founding this association helped to eliminate racial discrimination in the nursing profession. In 1951, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses merged with the ANA.
Best known for guiding slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad in the Civil War, Harriet Tubman was also a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union. She was well-known for using mainly natural and herbal remedies to treat her patients. In 1862, Tubman went to a Union camp in South Carolina where she nursed black soldiers as well as newly freed slaves. In 1865, Harriet was appointed matron of the Colored Hospital in Fort Monroe in Virginia, where she worked tirelessly trying to heal the sick. An activist all her life, Harriet lived into her nineties fighting for true equality.
Estelle Massey Osborne
Estelle Massey Osborne was someone who broke down barriers and commonly held notions. She is known for becoming the first black nurse in the United States to earn a Master’s degree, as well as becoming the first black instructor at New York University in 1945. She became the President of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and was the recipient of the Mary Mahoney Award in 1946 for her efforts to broaden opportunities for black nurses to move into the mainstream of professional nursing. Estelle forged an essential relationship with the American Nursing Association before the two programs merged in 1951, and she continued to get involved in organizations and movements in which she could make a lasting difference.