Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first black professional nurse in America, and an active organizer among African American nurses. At the age of 18, Mary 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. Of the 42 students who started that year, Mahoney was one of just four who graduated the next year. The training required 16 months in the hospital’s medical, surgical, and maternity wards, lectures and instruction by doctors on the ward, as well as four months of work as a private-duty nurse.

After graduation, Mary registered for work as a private-duty nurse. Mary inspired both nurses and patients with her calm, quiet efficiency and untiring compassion. Her professionalism helped raise the status of all nurses.

Mary Mahoney is noted for her efforts to improve the status of African-American nurses and promote the furthering of intercultural relations, and recognized the need for nurses to work together to improve the nursing profession. Mary helped build the foundation for the future of Nursing, and opened doors of opportunity for African-American nurses.

Mahoney was one of the first black members of the organization that later became the American Nurses Association (A.N.A.). When this organization proved slow to admit black nurses, Mary strongly supported the establishment of 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. Mary Mahoney, as a member of the NACGN, helped make it possible for nurses to be received at the White House by President Warren G. Harding.

In 1936, the NACGN created an award in honor of Mary Eliza Mahoney. The award was continued by the ANA after the NACGN was dissolved in 1951. In 1976, Mary Mahoney was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame, and in 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mary Eliza Mahoney will not only be remembered for her outstanding personal career and her exemplary contributions to local and national professional organizations, but also for helping to establish high standards of nursing practice and character for years to com

Let’s keep the legacy of Mary Eliza Mahoney alive!



Anne Hutchinson Bumbray Picture

The Mary Mahoney Graduate Nurses Club of Detroit was organized at the Brewster Center in 1924 by Mrs. Ann Hutchinson Bumbray, a graduate of Flint Goodridge Hospital, School of Nursing in New Orleans, Louisiana. 


Due to her great courage, Mrs. Bumbray was a tireless worker and for many years and was a recognized leader in her profession, both locally and nationally.

The Detroit Chapter and several other chapters around the country wanted to preserve the memory of Mary Eliza Mahoney. A socially oriented club was created that had as its mission to provide scholarship and financial assistance to student nurses. Today in the 21st century, only two Chapters are active: Detroit, Michigan and Seattle, Washington.