Mary Mahoney

Mary Mahoney

Mary Mahoney was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on 7th May, 1845. At eighteen Mahoney found work at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. For the next fifteen years she was employed as a cook and cleaner and it was not until 1878 that she was accepted as a student nurse. Training was rigorous and of the forty-two students accepted in 1878, only four, including Mahoney, graduated.

Mahoney developed a reputation as an outstanding nurse and was asked to look after private patients in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington and North Carolina. Her successful career played an important role in overcoming the considerable racial prejudice against African American nurses that existed at this time.

Mahoney became one of the first African-American women to join the American Nurses Association. In an attempt to combat racial discrimination in nursing, Mahoney joined with Martha Franklin and Adah Thoms to establish the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). A deeply religious woman, Mahoney became the NACGN national chaplain.

In 1911 Mahoney moved to New York where she took charge of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children in Kings Park, Long Island.

Mahoney was a strong supporter of women's suffrage and in 1921, aged seventy-six, was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Mary Mahoney died of breast cancer on 4th January, 1926, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, Massachusetts.


Little Known Black History Fact: Mary Mahoney

Mary Mahoney made history by becoming the first Black woman to complete nursing training in America in 1879. The Boston, Mass. native was born May 7, 1845, although some sources state April 16 as her birthday.

Mary Eliza Mahoney worked as a private-duty nurse at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children for many years ahead of her being admitted into the hospital’s nursing program in 1878. To bolster her income, Mahoney also worked a janitor and cook at the hospital as well.

Of the women who entered the nursing program, Mahoney was one of just a handful to graduate. Mahoney worked for several decades as a private nurse for prominent Boston families as the perils of being a Black nurse and the rampant racism of the time were a dangerous mix.

Mahoney was one of the first original members of the organization now known as the American Nurses Association (ANA), and she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908. In retirement, Mahoney became involved in the women’s suffrage movement, and became one of the first women in Boston to become a registered voter.

Mahoney passed in 1926 at the age of 80.

The NACGN established The Mary Mahoney Award in 1936 to honor nurses of all races. The ANA conferred the award in 1952 after the NACGN merged with them the year prior


Mary Eliza Mahoney

Mary Mahoney was born on May 7, 1845 (some sources say April 16), in Boston, Massachusetts. She was admitted to the nursing school of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and became the first black woman to complete nurse’s training in 1879. She also became one of the first black members of the American Nurses Association. Mahoney was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She died in Boston in 1926.

Mary Eliza Mahoney was born on May 7, 1845 (some sources say April 16, 1845), in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. After working for several years as a private-duty nurse at Boston’s New England Hospital for Women and Children, in 1878, Mahoney was admitted to the hospital’s nursing program.

The following year, Mary Mahoney became the first black woman to complete nurse’s training. She also subsequently became one of the first black members of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (later renamed the American Nurses Association), and a member of the newly founded National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

In addition to her pioneering efforts in nursing, Mahoney has been credited as one of the first women to register to vote in Boston folliowing the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which took place on August 26, 1920, granting women’s suffrage.

In the early 1900s, Mahoney relocated to Long Island, New York, to serve a stint as supervisor of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children, returning to Massachusetts thereafter.

Mahoney was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame in 1976, and received induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. She died in Boston, Massachusetts, on January 4, 1996, at the age of 80.


Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926)

Mary Eliza Mahoney, America’s first black graduate nurse, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on May 7, 1845. Originally from North Carolina, her parents were among the southern free blacks who moved north prior to the Civil War seeking a less racially discriminatory environment. The eldest of three siblings, Mahoney attended the Phillips Street School in Boston.

At the age of 20, Mary Mahoney began working as a nurse. Supplementing her low income as an untrained practical nurse, Mahoney took on janitorial duties at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. Incorporated on March 18, 1863, New England Hospital provided its patients state-of-the-art medical care by solely female physicians. It also assisted women in the practical study of medicine.

On March 3, 1878, Mary Mahoney was accepted into New England Hospital’s graduate nursing program. During her training, Mahoney participated in mandatory 16-hour-per-day ward duty, where she oversaw the well-being of six patients at a time. Days not requiring ward duty involved attending day-long lectures while simultaneously devoting time to her studies. Completing the rigorous 16-month program on August 1, 1879, Mahoney was among the three graduates out of the 40 students who began the program and the only African American awarded a diploma. Upon her graduation Mary Mahoney became the first African American graduate nurse.

Mary Mahoney worked as a nurse for the next four decades. During her 40-year career she attracted a number of private clients who were among the most prominent Boston families. A deeply religious person, the diminutive five-foot tall, ninety-pound Mahoney devoted herself to private nursing due to the rampant discrimination against black women in public nursing at the time.

Mary Mahoney was widely recognized within her field as a pioneer who opened the door of opportunity for many black women interested in the nursing profession. As such, when the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) was organized in New York in 1908, Mahoney was asked to give the welcoming address. Following her speech at the first NACGN Convention at Boston in 1909, Mahoney was made a lifetime member, exempted from dues, and elected chaplain.

Admitted to New England Hospital for care on December 7, 1925, Mahoney succumbed to breast cancer on January 4, 1926 at the age of eighty-one. Numerous honors were posthumously given to Mary Mahoney, including the Mary Mahoney Medal, an award offered annually which signifies excellence in nursing.


Mary Mahoney - History

Mary Ezra Mahoney was born in the Spring of 1845 in Boston, Massachusetts where she spent most of her life. Mahoney was eager to encourage greater equality for African Americans and women and so she pursued a nursing career which supported these aims. In her teens, she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. There she experienced a wide variety of roles and even the opportunity to work as a nurse’s aide.

At the age of 33 she was admitted to the hospital’s professional graduate school for nursing. Due to the intensity of the nursing program, many students were not able to complete the program. Of the 42 students that entered the program only four completed it in 1879, Mahoney was one of them. Thus making her the first African American in the US to earn a professional nursing license.

After graduation, Mahoney decided to pursue a career in private nursing to focus on the care needs of individual clients and to step away from the overwhelming discrimination in the public nursing sector. Mahoney was an active participant in the nursing profession and soon joined the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NAAUSC), which later became known as the American Nurses Association (ANA).

After experiencing life as an active participant in the professional nursing field and the struggles of discrimination along with it, Mahoney felt that a group was needed which advocated for the equality of African American nurses so in 1908 she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

After decades as a private nurse, Mahoney became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children in Kings Park. She finally retired from nursing after 40 years in the profession however, she continued to fight for women’s rights. In fact, Mahoney was among the first women who registered to vote in Boston after the 19 th Amendment was ratified in August 1920.

Mahoney lived a long and successful 80 years of life. After three years of battling breast cancer, she died on January 4, 1926.

Mahony’s bright pioneering spirit has been recognized with several awards and memorials. In 1936, the National Association for Colored Graduate Nurses founded the Mary Mahoney Award in honor of her achievements and continues to be awarded today by the American Nurses Association. This award is given to nurses or groups of nurses who promote integration within their field. The AHA further honored Mahoney in 1976 by inducting her into their Hall of Fame. And in 1993 Mahoney joined another esteemed group of women when she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Today there are approximately 440,000 African American RNs and LPNs, according to Minority Nurse, thanks in part to Mahoney’s trailblazing career path.


Mary Mahoney - History

Mary Ezra Mahoney was born in the Spring of 1845 in Boston, Massachusetts where she spent most of her life. Mahoney was eager to encourage greater equality for African Americans and women and so she pursued a nursing career which supported these aims. In her teens, she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. There she experienced a wide variety of roles and even the opportunity to work as a nurse’s aide.

At the age of 33 she was admitted to the hospital’s professional graduate school for nursing. Due to the intensity of the nursing program, many students were not able to complete the program. Of the 42 students that entered the program only four completed it in 1879, Mahoney was one of them. Thus making her the first African American in the US to earn a professional nursing license.

After graduation, Mahoney decided to pursue a career in private nursing to focus on the care needs of individual clients and to step away from the overwhelming discrimination in the public nursing sector. Mahoney was an active participant in the nursing profession and soon joined the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NAAUSC), which later became known as the American Nurses Association (ANA).

After experiencing life as an active participant in the professional nursing field and the struggles of discrimination along with it, Mahoney felt that a group was needed which advocated for the equality of African American nurses so in 1908 she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

After decades as a private nurse, Mahoney became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children in Kings Park. She finally retired from nursing after 40 years in the profession however, she continued to fight for women’s rights. In fact, Mahoney was among the first women who registered to vote in Boston after the 19 th Amendment was ratified in August 1920.

Mahoney lived a long and successful 80 years of life. After three years of battling breast cancer, she died on January 4, 1926.

Mahony’s bright pioneering spirit has been recognized with several awards and memorials. In 1936, the National Association for Colored Graduate Nurses founded the Mary Mahoney Award in honor of her achievements and continues to be awarded today by the American Nurses Association. This award is given to nurses or groups of nurses who promote integration within their field. The AHA further honored Mahoney in 1976 by inducting her into their Hall of Fame. And in 1993 Mahoney joined another esteemed group of women when she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Today there are approximately 440,000 African American RNs and LPNs, according to Minority Nurse, thanks in part to Mahoney’s trailblazing career path.


Mary Eliza Mahoney, First African American Nurse

Mary Eliza Mahoney, R.N. changed the course of American nursing forever when she became the first professionally trained African-American nurse in 1879. She was born in the free state of Massachusetts in 1845 after her parents moved from the slave state of North Carolina. The oldest of three children, she became interested in nursing as a career when she was a teenager. She began working as an untrained practical nurse but soon found that she needed to make more money. It was then that she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Roxbury, Massachusetts as a maid, laundress, cook and occasionally as a nurse’s assistant. The hospital, which had only female doctors and assisted women in the study of medicine, was also the first hospital in the United States to offer a nursing program. It is now the Dimock Community Health Center.

After working at the New England Hospital for 15 years, Mahoney was accepted into their nursing school in 1878 at the age of 33. The 16-month program was very rigorous and consisted of 16-hour days. When the students were not working on the wards at the hospital or doing private duty in patients’ homes, they were expected to attend daylong classes and lectures. Only four of the original 42 students who started the program had the stamina and willpower to complete the course. When she received her diploma in 1879, she became the first black American professional nurse and joined the ranks of famous nurses in history.

Mahoney devoted herself to private duty nursing for most of her 30-year career because of the still prevalent racial prejudice in public nursing. Many of her patients were from prestigious families and were impressed with her skill and professionalism. At the end of her career, she was director of a black orphanage in New York. She dedicated herself to her work and never married.

In 1896, Mahoney joined the newly formed and primarily white Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada, later known as the American Nurses Association (ANA). Because of their slowness in accepting black members, she helped form the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) and spoke at their first convention in 1909. At that time, she addressed the inequalities for African-Americans in nursing education and asked for a demonstration at the New England Hospital. The convention wholeheartedly supported her, elected her chaplain and gave her a lifetime membership. For many years, she worked to recruit minority nurses to join the organization. Largely because of her efforts, the number of African-American nurses doubled from 1910 to 1930.

Even after her retirement from nursing, Mahoney was very active in fighting for women’s equality. It should be no surprise that she was one of the first women to register to vote in 1920. After a three-year battle with breast cancer, Mary Mahoney died on January 4, 1926 at the age of 81 and was buried in Everett, Massachusetts.

Mary Mahoney left a legacy that is just as vital today as it was when she was alive. She fought not only for women of color but also for educational and professional rights for all minorities. The numerous awards and honors in her name testify to this fact. In 1936, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses created the prestigious Mary Mahoney Award to honor those who advanced the welfare of minority groups in nursing. When the NACGN merged with the American Nurse’s Association (ANA) in 1951, the ANA chose to continue the award. There is also a Mary Mahoney Medal given annually for excellence in nursing. In 1976, she was chosen to be in the Nursing Hall of Fame and in 1993, the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

There are a number of writings available for those who want to know more about this extraordinary woman who helped shape the entire nursing profession. Susan Muaddi Darraj has published the book, Mary Eliza Mahoney and the Legacy of African-American Nurses (Women in Medicine). Many other books are available that document the contributions of blacks in the 18th and 19th centuries, including those of Mary Mahoney. Nursing journals and biographies are also a rich source of information about Mahoney’s contributions to nursing.


Black History and Nursing - Mary Eliza Mahoney

Black History month is a time of reflection. A time where we look back at historically significant African American figures that changed the landscape for civil rights. During this time, I would like to put a beacon on a lesser known Black historical figure that had an insurmountable impact on lives back then and today. Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first formally trained Black nurse in America. A woman whose nursing acumen had those living in the late 1800’s writing letters to locate her to take care of their family members! This blog will focus on Mary and the Nursing profession.

Nursing today is a well-respected career. For over 18 years, nurses have ranked number one as the most trusted profession in the Gallup poll by Americans. You have advanced practice nurses, nurses that provide primary care for millions, and travel nurses that go across the country to provide care for others. In almost any healthcare setting, nurses are at the forefront of patient care. When we look at travel nursing, we have to give credit to Mary Eliza Mahoney for pioneering that industry.

Mary Eliza Mahoney was born in Boston, on May 7, 1845, as the oldest of three children. At the age of 18, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, working at the progressive New England Hospital for Women and Children. In 1878, at age 33, she was accepted in that hospital’s nursing school, the first professional nursing program in the country. Of her class of 42, she was one of only four who graduated from the program. Her training was intensive, and she worked in the medical, surgical, and maternity wards. Lectures were also part and parcel of the course by physicians. And during her training, she was required to do four months of private duty nursing.

After graduation, Mary was a full-time private duty nurse. The families that she worked with praised her calm and quiet efficiency. Mahoney also helped elevate the status of nurses. During her time, frequently, nurses were seen as “the help” rather than trained medical professions and were assigned domestic duties. Mary is notable for advocating for her job and refused to be treated like a maid. While working, she gained an excellent reputation and had requests from far away states like New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina.

Mahoney also joined an organization that would later be known as the American Nurses Association as one of the first Black nurses. She noted that the group was slow to admit Black nurses and supported the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (N.A.C.G.N.), and delivered the welcome address at that organization’s first annual convention in 1909. In that address, Mary highlighted the inequalities in nursing and that Black women needed a fair chance to pursue nursing education. The conference members took her comments seriously and even elected her to the associations’ chaplain and granted her a lifetime membership.

Mahoney was also a women’s rights advocate and fought for the right to vote, and after the passage of the 19th amendment, she voted in her first election at age 76!

In 1923, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer and died three years later in 1926. After her death, a memorial to her life was erected in Massachusetts. The American Association of Nurses inducted her into their hall of fame in 1976. Mahoney’s life had a significant impact on the African American community. The number of Black women in the nursing profession had more than doubled just four years after her death.

Mary Eliza Mahoney, without question, was and still is a pioneer in the nursing profession. Her work ethic and advocacy outreach granted nurses prestige and respect. Mary’s contribution to Black History should be talked about outside of even the month of February. Today nurses are the face of healthcare, and incredible people like Mary Eliza Mahoney made that possible.

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The Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT) is a statewide initiative funded by the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP). The goal of the ASERT Collaborative is to provide streamlined access to information for the estimated 30,000 Pennsylvanians living with autism.

Throughout this website we use the term ‘autism’ to refer to all autism spectrum disorders. In some sections of the site, language has been adopted directly from self-advocacy groups in order to use language preferred by self-advocates.


Dennis Mahoney (1832-1927) and Mary O’Connor (1836-1898) lived through Ireland’s potato famines of the mid-1850’s. They emigrated from Ireland to the United States before 1868. After living in Chicago for a short time, they settled in Heartwell, Nebraska, where Dennis farmed. Mary gave birth to seven children at least three were born in the United States.

Their son, Michael James Mahoney (1868-1939) married Josephine Amanda Porter (1875-1966) in Heartwell, Nebraska, in 1893. Michael had moved to Heartwell with his parents in 1889, and that is where Josephine and Michael met. Michael was a farmer all of his life. They had seven children.


Mary Mahoney

Mary Mahoney was the first African-American woman to study and work as a professionally trained nurse. She was a hospital worker before entering training and receiving a diploma in 1879 from the nursing school of the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

Trained nurses were a relatively new institution then, but standards were rigorous, and only four of 18 women who started the course with Mahoney graduated. Her high level of performance thwarted racial bias and paved the way for other African-American women to enter the profession.

Mahoney developed a successful career as a private duty nurse and as one of the few early African-American members of the American Nurses Association. She was an active member of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.

A longtime advocate of woman suffrage, Mahoney is believed to be one of the first women to register and vote in Boston following passage of the 19th Amendment. The Mary Mahoney Award of the American Nurses Association honors significant contributions to race relations.


Watch the video: Mary Mahoneys Old French House Restaurant