Mary Eliza Mahoney

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Mary Eliza Mahoney
Mary Eliza Mahoney.jpg
Born May 7, 1845
Boston, Massachusetts
Died January 4, 1926(1926-01-04) (aged 80)
Boston, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Alma mater New England Hospital for Women and Children
Occupation Nurse

Mary Eliza Mahoney (May 7, 1845 – January 4, 1926) was the first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879.

In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms. The NACGN eventually merged with the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1951. She is commemorated by the biennial Mary Mahoney Award of the ANA for significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.[1]


Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Mary Eliza Mahoney worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now the Dimock Community Health Center) for fifteen years before being accepted into its nursing school, which was America’s first.

The Hospital was founded[2] by women doctors in 1862. It started its nurse training program in 1872 with forty two students, but only four actually graduated, including Linda Richards, who graduated as the first formally educated nurse in the United States.

After gaining her nursing diploma in 1905, Mahoney worked for many years as a private care nurse, earning a distinguished reputation. From 1911 to 1912 she served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island, New York.

In 1896, Mahoney was one of the original members of a predominantly white Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada. In 1911 it became the American Nurses Association (ANA). In 1908 she was cofounder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN).

In retirement, Mahoney was still concerned with women's equality and a strong supporter of women’s suffrage (the movement to gain women the right to vote.) In 1920, she was among the first women in Boston to register to vote. She died on January 4, 1926, aged 80.


Mahoney’s grave is in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, Massachusetts.[3]

In recognition of her outstanding example to nurses of all races, the NACGN established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936. When NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association in 1951, the award was continued. Today, the Mary Mahoney Award[4] is bestowed biennially by the ANA in recognition of significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups.

Mahoney was inducted into the ANA's Hall of Fame[5] in 1976. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame[6] in 1993.

  • Mary Mahoney Memorial Health Center, Oklahoma City[7]
  • Mary Mahoney Lecture Series, Indiana University Northwest[8]
  • Honoring Mary Eliza Mahoney, America's first professionally trained African-American nurse. House of Representatives resolution, US Congress, April 2006 H.CON.RES.386[9]


^ According to Mary E. Chayer of Teacher's College, Columbia University, an unverified report gave Mary Eliza Mahoney's birth date as April 16, 1845 in Roxbury.[10][11] Other sources list her date of birth as May 7, 1845.[12][13]


  1. ^ African American Medical Pioneers: Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926), Partners of the Heart, American Experience on Public Service Broadcasting website accessed at (June 7, 2006)
  2. ^ Pioneers of Dimock accessed at[dead link] (June 7, 2006)
  3. ^ AAHN Gravesites of Prominent Nurses - Mahoney at
  4. ^ NursingWorld | ANA National Awards Program - version 3.3 at
  5. ^ Sorry! - American Nurses Association at
  6. ^ National Women's Hall of Fame - Women of the Hall at
  7. ^ Mary Mahoney Memorial Health Center at
  8. ^ Mary Mahoney Lecture Series: Eliminating Disparities in Healthcare at
  9. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress) at
  10. ^ Davis, Althea T. (1999). Early Black American Leaders in Nursing: Architects for Integration and Equality. Boston: Jones and Bartlett. p. 59. ISBN 9780763710095. 
  11. ^ Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S. Boyer, ed. (1974). Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 486. ISBN 9780674627345. 
  12. ^ Doona, ME (1986). "Glimpses of Mary Eliza Mahoney (7 May 1845-4 January 1926).". Journal of Nursing History 1 (2): 21–34. PMID 11620933. 
  13. ^ Anne Commire, Deborah Klezmer, ed. (2001). Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Detroit [u.a.]: Yorkin Publications. p. 100. ISBN 978-0787640699. 

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