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Karen Buhler-Wilkerson and Sarah A. Johnson

By any standard, Anna De Costa Banks was an exceptional nurse. Raised and educated in Charleston, South Carolina, Banks graduated from Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1891. She then attended the newly chartered Hampton Hospital and Training School for Nurses, graduating in its first class in 1893. She later recounted in letters to her mentors that the training she received at Hampton had shaped her whole life. Having received special funds to attend Hampton, Banks felt an obligation to work on behalf of the black community that had supported her.

Returning to Charleston, Banks became head nurse of the Hospital and Training School for Nurses when it opened in 1896 Committed to meeting the health care needs of the black community these institutions were also created in response to the denial of staff privileges to black physicians and the exclusion of black women from admission to the ...

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Amilcar Priestley

was born in St. Lucy, Barbados, on 15 November 1916. She was the second child and eldest daughter of her parents’ five children. Her father was the Reverend Reginald Barrow, a controversial Anglican priest who gave sermons against racism and social stratification, which resulted in his dismissal from his post in St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Her mother was Ruth O’Neal Barrow, sister of Dr. Charles Duncan O’Neal, who was the founder of the Democratic League and is regarded as a national hero of Barbados. After attending primary school in St. Croix, where her father had a congregation, she entered St. Michael’s Girls’ School in Barbados—the island’s first high school to accept girls—in 1928. After graduating in 1934 she began a career in nursing first at the Barbados General Hospital then as a midwife at Port of Spain General Hospital in Trinidad and later as ...

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Mary Krane Derr

nursing educator and administrator, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Little information is available about her parents or other aspects of her personal background. When she was nine years old Bessent lost her mother. Her grandmother then raised her, instilling in her a strong belief that self‐giving is the measure of personal worth. After graduating from high school in Jacksonville, Bessent worked as a laboratory and X‐ray technician, an unusual job for a black woman of her time and place but one that led to her groundbreaking career in nursing.

During and after slavery African Americans especially women often served as lay healers and tenders of the sick Starting in the nineteenth century as nursing became a more formally organized profession the color line sliced through it Even though black communities urgently needed more health care black nurses were denied membership in the American Nurses Association ANA educational opportunities and all ...

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William David Barry

nursing administrator, who as a teenager in 1952 caused racial integration of a Washington, DC, public accommodation, was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Emory C. Dodge Sr. and Irene Isabel Eastman. Her father, a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, served in the Canadian Army and the U.S. Navy before settling in Portland, Maine, where he was employed in local hotels and at the Maine Medical Center. Emory Sr. married Irene Eastman, a member of a long-established black Maine family, on 18 October 1928. They raised two children on Anderson Street in Portland's ethnically mixed Munjoy Hill neighborhood. As a young woman Beverly took a particular interest in family history, especially through a cousin Mary E. Barnett who had preserved letters and documents that would eventually lead Beverly back to the family s origins in Demerara Guyana and the Netherlands during the 1700s Further more ...

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Miriam Sawyer

Bragg, Janet (24 March 1907–11 April 1993), aviator, nurse, and nursing home proprietor, was born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia, the daughter of Cordia Batts Harmon and Samuel Harmon, a brick contractor. The Batts family had long been established in Griffin. Bragg's maternal grandfather was a freed slave of Spanish descent, and her maternal grandmother was a Cherokee. Bragg's grandfather had built the house in which she and her siblings were born; her mother had been born in the same house. Bragg, the youngest of seven children, had a happy childhood, enjoying sports and games and excelling at school. In an interview conducted at the University of Arizona as part of a project called African Americans in Aviation in Arizona, Bragg reminisced: “We were a very happy family. We were not a rich family, only rich in love.”

Independence was encouraged in the Harmon household The children ...

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Miriam Sawyer

aviator, nurse, and nursing home proprietor, was born Janet Harmon in Griffin, Georgia, the daughter of Cordia Batts and Samuel Harmon, a brick contractor. The Batts family had long been established in Griffin. Janet's maternal grandfather was a freed slave of Spanish descent, and her maternal grandmother was a Cherokee. Janet's grandfather had built the house in which she and her siblings were born; her mother had been born in the same house. The youngest of seven children, Janet had a happy childhood, enjoying sports and games and excelling at school. In an interview conducted at the University of Arizona as part of a project called “African Americans in Aviation in Arizona,” Bragg reminisced: “We were a very happy family. We were not a rich family, only rich in love.”

Independence was encouraged in the Harmon household The children were allowed to attend any church they chose They were ...

Article

nurse, affectionately known as “Cherry,” was born Eumeda Powis in the largely rural parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, on 16 January 1939. Her father, Ferdinal Powis, was a farmer. Her mother’s name and occupation are unknown. She attended the Collington and Crooked River Schools in the parish, and later, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she went on to receive a tertiary education in Great Britain, attending Trafford College and Manchester Polytechnic. Her studies at the tertiary level established her in the field of healthcare, in which she had a distinguished career. She married Arthur S. Byfield and gave birth to two children while residing in Britain for over thirty years. It was here that Byfield did extensive work in nursing. Nursing was not her only passion, however. She was committed to community development in both Britain and her home county of Jamaica.

Byfield took refuge in her work ...

Article

Hilary Mac Austin

Maude Callen was a nurse-midwife, known today because she was the subject of a Life magazine photo-essay by the famed photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. In her lecture at the Radcliffe Institute entitled “Black before Brown: Education, Health, and Social Welfare Professionals in the South, 1930-1954,” Darlene Clark Hine noted of Callen, “She became the first African American woman in United States history to be featured in a mainstream white publication that did not telescope her body or sexuality.” The 3 December 1951 essay entitled “Nurse Midwife: Maude Callen Eases Pain of Birth, Life, and Death” shows that Callen was an exemplary human being: strong, tireless, brave, committed, and indomitable. It also shows that Callen essentially ran her own private social service agency for the poor of her community. What the essay did not show, could not show, in a mainstream, conservative publication such as Life except by ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

nurse, educator, and leader, was born Mary Elizabeth Lancaster in Baltimore, Maryland, the fourth child of John Oliver Lancaster, a musician, and Adeline Beatrice Swann, a homemaker. In 1918 the Lancasters divorced and M. Elizabeth went to live with her mother's sister in Washington, D.C., where she attended public school. The family had little money and Carnegie worked part-time at a whites-only cafeteria. She graduated from Dunbar High School at age sixteen. Like many girls who were good at a science but who lacked the money to pay for college, Carnegie pursued a diploma in nursing at a hospital-affiliated school. Such schools typically gave students small stipends as well as free tuition in exchange for their labor on hospital wards. Carnegie added two years to her age to get admitted to the all-black Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City. She graduated in 1934.

The hospitals ...

Article

Ruth E. Martin

civil rights activist and nurse's aide, was born Claudette Austin in Birmingham, Alabama. The daughter of Mary Jane Gadson and C. P. Austin, she was raised by her great-aunt and great-uncle, Mary Ann Colvin and Q. P. Colvin, the former a maid and the latter a “yard boy,” or outdoor domestic.

When Colvin was eight, she and her guardians moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where she attended Booker T. Washington High School. In February 1955 her classes were devoted to “Negro History month,” with a focus on current racial injustice in Montgomery. On her way home from school on 2 March 1955 she sat in the rear of the bus far behind the ten seats that were automatically reserved for whites A 1900 Montgomery city ordinance stipulated that conductors were given the power to assign seats in order to ensure racial segregation but that no passengers would ...

Article

Dalyce Newby

nurse, educator, and community advocate, was born in Shelby, North Carolina, the daughter of an unlawful interracial marriage between Darryl Elliott, a part African American Cherokee sharecropper, and Emma (maiden name unknown), the daughter of a plantation owner and Methodist minister. Darryl Elliott fled the state early in Davis's life, leaving her to be raised by her mother. Both parents had died by 1887, after which Davis was raised in a succession of foster homes. At the age of twelve she was sent to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lived under the guardianship of the Reverend Vickers. In the Vickers household she was regarded more as a domestic helper than a ward; consequently her early formal education was pursued on a sporadic basis. Determined to succeed, she possessed the intrepidity to improve her reading skills on her own.

In 1896 at the age of fourteen ...

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Dalyce Newby

Davis, Frances Elliott (28 April 1882–02 May 1965), public health nurse, nurse-educator, and community advocate was born in Shelby North Carolina the daughter of an unlawful interracial marriage between Darryl Elliott a part African American Cherokee sharecropper and Emma maiden name unknown the daughter of a plantation owner and Methodist minister Darryl Elliott fled the state early in Frances s life leaving her to be raised by her mother Both parents had died by 1887 after which Davis was raised in a succession of foster homes At the age of twelve she was sent to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where she lived under the guardianship of the Reverend Mr Vickers In the Vickers household she was regarded more as a domestic helper than a ward consequently her early formal education was pursued on a sporadic basis Determined to succeed she possessed the intrepidity to upgrade her reading skills on ...

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Althea T. Davis

nursing leader, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Henry J. Franklin, a laborer and a private in the Twenty-ninth Connecticut Volunteer Division during the Civil War, and Mary E. Gauson. Reared in Meriden, Connecticut, during the post–Civil War period, Franklin lived in a town that had few African Americans. She graduated from Meriden Public High School in 1890. In 1895, having chosen nursing as a career, Franklin entered the Women's Hospital Training School for Nurses in Philadelphia. She graduated in December 1897, the only black graduate in the class, and went on to find work as a private-duty nurse in Meriden and thereafter in New Haven, to which she relocated.

Franklin s interest in organizing the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses NACGN was prompted by the difficulties black women often faced That black women were rarely accepted into schools of ...

Article

Althea T. Davis

Franklin, Martha Minerva (29 October 1870–26 September 1968), nursing leader, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Henry J. Franklin, a laborer and a private in the Twenty-ninth Connecticut Volunteer Division during the Civil War, and Mary E. Gauson. Reared in Meriden, Connecticut, during the post–Civil War period, Franklin lived in a town that had very few African Americans. She graduated from Meriden Public High School in 1890. In 1895, choosing nursing as a career, Franklin entered the Women’s Hospital Training School for Nurses in Philadelphia. She graduated in December 1897, the only black graduate in the class. After graduation, she worked as a private-duty nurse in Meriden and thereafter in New Haven, to which she relocated.

Franklin s interest in organizing the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses NACGN was prompted by the difficult challenges black women encountered During the Reconstruction era rigid practices ...

Article

Darlene Clark Hine

Born in New Milford, Connecticut, to Henry J. Franklin and Mary E. Gauson Franklin, Martha graduated from Meriden Public High School in 1890. Five years later, she entered the Woman’s Hospital Training School for Nurses in Philadelphia, one of the few black women to have access to such a nursing program. The vast majority of nursing schools either severely restricted or prohibited the admission of black women. This widespread system of racial discrimination and exclusion propelled many African Americans to found a separate network of health care institutions and nurse training schools.

The sole black student in her class, Franklin received her diploma in December 1897. She found employment as a private-duty nurse, because hospital staff or public health nursing were seldom available to black nurses. Franklin worked for a while in Meriden and then in New Haven.

As a graduate nurse Franklin was confronted with ...

Article

Adria N. Armbrister

nurse-midwife, was born in Pennsylvania. Little is known of her family or early life. She is best known for her work with African American midwives in Arkansas during the 1940s; her efforts are credited with having reduced drastically the race-based disparities in maternal mortality in that state at mid-century. Hale trained in and practiced public health nursing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before attending the Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery in Alabama. Hale, who received a certificate in midwifery from the program, was one of thirty-one African American women graduates of the Tuskegee school, only the fourth such education program in the United States. Opened in 1942 the school was also the first postgraduate nurse-practitioner course in midwifery for African American students. It awarded both master's degrees and certificates, but it closed in 1946 as did several other programs for African American nurse midwives begun at that time due to white ...

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Amy M. Hay

The public health career of the nurse and midwife Mamie Odessa Hale demonstrates the importance black women have played in helping to improve the health of black Americans, particularly in the South. Hale’s training of the “granny” midwives of Arkansas proved to be her lasting gift to public health.

Born in Pennsylvania, Mamie Odessa Hale attended a teachers college and later worked as a public health nurse in Pittsburgh, eventually leaving that career to attend the Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery in Alabama, from which she graduated in 1942. Tuskegee, famous and infamous in black health history, played an important role as an institution dedicated to improving the health of poor rural blacks. The institution opened one of the first black nurses training programs in 1892 and served as a major educational institution in providing both training for black professionals and health programs for southern blacks.

The Nurse Midwifery ...

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Christopher J. Neumann

autobiographer and black women's rights activist, was born Jane Edna Harris in Pendleton, South Carolina, the daughter of Edward Harris and Harriet Millner, sharecroppers. Following her father's death due to jaundice when she was ten years old, Jane and her three siblings were distributed briefly among the homes of various relatives. His death and the ensuing dispersal of her nuclear family were especially difficult for Jane, in part because she had customarily been “father's ally in his differences with mother” (A Nickel, 12) but also because she now had to forgo formal schooling to earn her keep in Anderson, South Carolina, as a live-in nursemaid and cook. Although treated so poorly by her mistress that white and black neighbors alike protested, she was taught to read and write by the eldest daughter.

Harris entered Ferguson Academy (later Ferguson-Williams College) in 1896 graduating four years later ...

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Hassoum Ceesay

Gambian politician, women's rights activist, playwright, and nurse, was born in May 1924 in Banjul, Gambia, to Sir John Mahoney, the first Speaker of the Gambian Legislature, and Lady Hannah Mahoney, a typist. She attended St Joseph's Convent and the Methodist Girls’ High School in Banjul, where she sat her Cambridge School Leaving Certificate Examination in 1942.

From 1942 to 1946 she worked as a nurse assistant at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Banjul, before traveling to England in 1946 to study medicine at the Royal Infirmary, Bristol, where she obtained her State Registered Nurse (SRN) certificate in 1953. On returning to Gambia, she was posted as a nursing sister to Basse, 400 kilometers from Bathurst, where she met and married Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Their marriage at Basse in February 1955 was described in the Bathurst press as a unique occasion which ...

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Michaeljulius Idani

nurse and U.S. Congresswoman, was born in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Edward Johnson, a Navy veteran and civil servant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Lillie Mae White Johnson, a homemaker and church organizer. Johnson was one of four children—sisters Ruth and Lee and brother Carl. The Johnsons were a tight-knit Christian family with a large extended family rooted in the Waco community. Johnson's parents instilled in their children a deep appreciation for education. Johnson's mother was an honor's graduate of AJ Moore High School in Waco, where Johnson would later attend and graduate in 1952.

By the early 1950s many segregationist laws had been enacted against African Americans and Hispanics Texas maintained separatist policies related to education and public and residential areas and few opportunities existed for Johnson to pursue higher education locally After graduation from high school she attended St ...