May 11, 2023

Congresswoman Bush Introduces Resolution Recognizing America’s First Black Nurse


In 1879, Mary Eliza Mahoney became first professionally trained Black nurse


Resolution advocates for nurses of color amid nationwide safe staffing crisis


Washington D.C. (May 11, 2023) — Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) introduced a resolution honoring Mary Eliza Mahoney, America’s first professionally trained Black nurse. In 1879, Mahoney was 1 of 4 students to graduate from the New England Hospital for Women and Children, becoming the country’s first professionally trained Black nurse. In addition to honoring Mahoney’s historic achievement, this resolution serves to recognize and advocate for the advancement of all Black, Latina and nurses of color.


“Mary Eliza Mahoney’s bravery, resiliency, and trailblazing contributions to the nursing profession have paved the way for countless Black nurses. I'm proud to introduce this resolution to honor the legacy of Ms. Mahoney, America's first professionally trained Black nurse,” said Congresswoman Bush. “As a nurse, I know firsthand the disparity within our healthcare workforce remains stark. We must honor Ms. Mahoney's legacy by working towards a more diverse and inclusive healthcare system. This resolution acknowledges the indispensable role that Black nurses play while calling for the investment in nursing care; promotion of the history and contributions of Black nurses; and encouragement of more women of color to join this noble profession."


A copy of this resolution can be found HERE.


This resolution is co-sponsored by Representatives Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), Jennifer McClellan (VA-04), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Lisa Blunt-Rochester (DE), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Darren Soto (FL-09).


Mary Mahoney was born on May 7, 1845 to two formerly enslaved people in Massachusetts. She worked as a janitor, cook, and laborer for 15 years in the New England Hospital for Women and Children before being accepted to their nursing program. Due to the overwhelming discrimination in public nursing, Mary worked as a private nurse in Boston and went on to co-found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.


This resolution is endorsed by the National Black Nurses Association, National Nurses United, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, National Women's Health Network, National Partnership for Women & Families, Center for Birth Equity Research and Praxis of The Collaborative, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Black Girls Vote, New Mexico Doula Association, Speaking of Birth, Catholics for Choice, and Delaware House of Representatives.


“In 1879, Mary Eliza Mahoney was one of three nurses to graduate of class of 42 from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Roxbury, Massachusetts. She was the first African American to study and work as a professional nurse in the United States. In 1920, Nurse Mahoney was among the first women to register to vote. She lived and left a legacy that the National Black Nurses Associate are still practicing, combining advocacy and nursing to inform health care in the U.S.,” said Martha A. Dawson, DNP, MSN, RN, FAAN, FACHE President/CEO, National Black Nurses Association.


“Mary Eliza Mahoney, RN, led the way for nurses of color like me. It is important that we honor her many professional accomplishments and her dedication to nursing care. One hundred and forty-five years after her graduation from nursing school, black nurses continue to make up a disproportionately small percentage of nurses. We know that when nurses and health care professionals look like the community they serve, patients receive better care. NNU thanks Congresswoman Cori Bush, a fellow nurse, for her leadership on this resolution and for recognizing the need to improve working conditions for nurses and invest in training nurses of color,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, Executive Director for National Nurses United


“On behalf of academic nursing, we are proud to see this resolution honoring Mary Eliza Mahoney who stands tall as a true trailblazer in the history of professional nursing,” said Dr. Deborah Trautman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “With a strong commitment to education, racial justice, leadership, and community service, Mary Eliza Mahoney has served as a role model for generations of registered nurses and is a beacon to those considering a career in nursing.”


“On this day, and every day, we thank Mary Eliza Mahoney for trailblazing the path for all Black nurses. As an organization that focuses on Black maternal and infant health, and reproductive wellbeing, the role that Black nurses play is essential and we are grateful to Congresswoman Bush for introducing this legislation,” says Nia Mitchell, Vice President, Center for Birth Equity Research and Praxis of The Collaborative.


Congresswoman Bush served as nurse for 12 years prior to being elected to represent Missouri’s First Congressional District. Her lived experience as a Black nurse drives much of her work in Congress, advocating on behalf of marginalized communities to secure housing and healthcare for all. Congresswoman Bush led the Congressional Oversight Committee’s first-ever hearing on Medicare for All. She continues to fight for reproductive rights and recognizes the role that social services, such as housing, has in public health. Black nurses help save Black lives. 




Congresswoman Cori Bush sits on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, serves as the Ranking Member of Oversight Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs, and proudly represents St. Louis as a politivist in the halls of the United States Congress.