On May 7th, 1845 Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts to parents Charles and Mary Jane Stewart Mahoney. Her family lived in Boston, Massachusetts where she would first gain interest in the nursing field as a teenager. Mahoney began working as a private-duty nurse for the New England Hospital for Women and Children; her next move was being admitted into the New England Hospital’s nursing program. As a nursing student Mahoney was challenged to endure and overcome the rigorous schedule on a nurse. She would work 16 hours a day to complete her objectives, while caring for 6 patients at a time. In 1879 Mahoney became the first African-American woman to graduate nursing school in America.
Because racism exists Mahoney had trouble finding nursing jobs so she began private nursing to make a living. She became well known for her skills and her ability to build relationships with her patients. Prominent members of the Boston community sought out Mahoney because of her impeccable reputation. She was a five foot tall, 90 pound force of nature; she looked racism in the eye, laughed and accomplished her goals. In 1909 she was recognized by the newly formed National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), as a leading pioneer in the field of nursing. She was invited to give the welcome address at the inaugural (NACGN) Convention in 1909, made a lifetime member and elected Chaplain. Mahoney was one of the first women to vote in Boston after the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920.
She briefly lived in Long Island, New York where she became the supervisor of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children. In 1979 she was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame, and in 1993 she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. She lived until the age of 81 passing away from breast cancer in 1926. Mahoney was a fearless woman willing to challenge the status quo, racism and any other obstacle that stood in her way. Ms. Mary Eliza Mahoney, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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