Mary Eliza Mahoney

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Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N.
First Black Nurse
1845-1926
The year 1845 was a year of new beginning. On March 3, 1845, Florida becomes the 27th State admitted to the Union. On May 29, 1845, Wisconsin becomes the 28th
State admitted to the Union. On December 29, 1845, Texas becomes the 29th State to the join the Union. On Tuesday, March 4, 1845, Former Tennessee Governor and Speaker of the House, James Knox Polk, becomes the President of the United States of America and Morse code, invented 2 years earlier, transmits the news. April 4, 1845, George Dallas becomes the 11th Vice President of the United States. Congratulations are all around.

On May 7, 1845, Charles and Mary Jane Mahoney welcomed the addition of a baby girl to the family, Mary Eliza Mahoney. Perhaps not as widely publicized as these other events, but with congratulations nonetheless. A new beginning for Black women of America arrives. The new baby girl would become the First Black Registered Nurse in America.

Her parents had moved from North Carolina, a slave state, to Massachusetts, which was a free state. It would not be until January 31, 1865 that Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery in the United States.

Children like Mary usually went into the domestic line of work. Mary chose different. She chose nursing. In 1872, Dr. Marie Zakrzewska had helped to establish the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now Dimock Community Health Center). Mary Eliza Mahoney, a ninety pound women, worked there for fifteen years as a maid and did chores such as wash women, cooking, scrubbing, and ironing for sixteen hours a day seven days a week. In 1878, at thirty-three years old, Mary became one of forty women to enroll in the first professional nursing program for women. Ironically, her duties included scrubbing, cooking, cleaning, along with her studies.

Forty students enrolled in the sixteen-month program, which consisted of working on the medical,...
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