February is Black History Month and I’m so excited to get to highlight a very special person in not only black history but nursing history in general. As you all know, I usually highlight men in nursing history, but this month I found it appropriate to make a special exception. Let’s get to it!
Pioneer=A person that helps open a new line of thought.
I would say calling Ms. Mary Eliza Mahoney a pioneer would be greatly understated. Ms Mahoney (1845-1926) accomplished and has been recognized for many great things in her life, but the most special accomplishment that stands out to me is being the VERY FIRST EVER professionally trained African American nurse.
Imagine…it’s 14 years after slavery was abolished. Your parents were slaves. They were ACTUALLY owned by somebody at one time. Everyday you walk out your door and you can TASTE the hatred in the air. Segregation is a very real thing, yet you have this burning in your gut. You feel in the depths of your soul you were called by God for a special purpose. You have a heart for people, no matter what color and a drive to persevere through whatever it takes to accomplish this calling on your life. THAT was Ms. Mary Eliza Mahoney. What an AMAZING WOMAN!
Mahoney, the oldest daughter of 3 siblings, was raised in Massachusetts by her parents, former slaves. She began working at the New England hospital for Women and Children 15 years before she was finally accepted into its nursing school. She was 33. In 1908 she founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), which later became integrated with the American Nurses Association. In 1912 Mahoney wrapped up her career as the Director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island, New York. In 1976 she was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame and later (1993) into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Ms Mahoney died in 1926 at 80 years of age.
I would implore you to take the time and read more about this amazing woman, who overcame great odds to make a difference in the lives of so many. I’ve left a few links below. I also hope that you take with you this one last thought I wish to give. You can accomplish ANYTHING you wish to accomplish. There maybe something in your life you feel you were called to do. Do it. Don’t think about all the things that might make it impossible to bring it to fruition. Instead, think of all the ways it could possibly work. Set the intention of accomplishing whatever it is. Every day you wake up is a gift. Make the most of it.