A Tribute to a Nursing Pioneer:

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Mary Eliza Mahoney was a trailblazer in the field of nursing. Born in 1845 in Boston, Massachusetts to freed slaves, Mahoney realized the importance of an education, graduating from the Phillips School in Boston, which after 1855, became one of the first integrated schools in the country.

From a young age, she knew that nursing was her calling even though African Americans were not permitted to enroll in collegiate programs at the time. Being keenly aware of this fact, she started working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in a variety of roles such as janitor, cook and dishwasher over the span of 15 years.

In 1878, at the age of 33, Mahoney was admitted to the hospital’s professional graduate school for nursing. This was one of the first nursing programs in the country and typically only admitted women between the ages of 21-31.

Even though Mahoney was 33 at the time, the hospital gave her the opportunity in recognition of her steadfast dedication to the hospital over the years. The class comprised 42 students, four of which completed the rigorous course. 

Mahoney went on to private home care and eventually became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island in New York City. 

After her 40-year nursing career, Mahoney continued to make incredible strides for women’s suffrage as she was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston in 1920. She passed away on January 4, 1926 at the age of 80 after battling breast cancer.

Mahoney left a significant impact on the medical community, including having numerous buildings and scholarships dedicated in her honor. She was posthumously inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mahoney not only created her own path in this world, but paved the way for other women to pursue their own dreams.

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