1845 - 1926

The monument erected in 1973 by Chi Eta Phi and ANA at the Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett MA

Photo of Mary E. Mahoney's grave by Mary Ellen Doona

Mary Eliza Mahoney's place in history was sealed as the first African American trained nurse. Her life has been documented on several websites and visitors are referred to the numerous publications for further information on her life. Of particular interest to this website however is the story of her grave.

In honor of her work, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936 and the award is still given in recognition of significant contributions to interracial relationships.

Helen S. Miller at the original grave marker  of Mary MahoneyHelen Sullivan Miller was a recipient of the Mahoney medal in 1968. Inspired by the Award to honor Mahoney, she traveled to Everett Massachusetts to vist the grave of Mary Mahoney. It took her some time of digging and scratching away grass and plantings but Helen Miller found the marker that designated Mahoney's grave.

Helen S. Miller spearheaded a drive to have a proper monument for Mahoney. With the support of Chi Eta Phi and ANA the monument pictured at the top of this page was dedicated in 1973 with three Mahoney medalists at the dedication ceremonies. The stone was designed by another Mahoney recipient, Mabel Staupers, whose contributions to professional nursing are also significant.

On September 1, 1984 Miller led a pilgrimage to the restored grave. Three generations of Mahoney family members and Chi Eta Phi members and friends from across the country were in attendance. Mary Ellen Doona, Historian of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and one of Mahoney's biographers was also in attendance.

Two years later Chi Eta Phi published Helen Sullivan Miller's biography of Mahoney: Mary Eliza Mahoney 1845-1926- America's First Black Professional Nurse.

How we treat the graves of our pioneers is a measure of how we revere our professional roots and honor our heritage. Just as Helen Sullivan Miller inspired the drive to properly honor Miss Mahoney, this gravesite series hopes to inspire others to visit the gravesites of historically significant nurses.

Mary Ellen Doona


Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, (1995). The Path We Tread: Blacks in Nursing, 1854-1994 New York: NLN Press.

Althea T. Davis, (1988). Mary Eliza Mahoney. In: American nursing: A biographical dictionary. V.L. Bullough, V.L., O.M. Church, & A.P. Stein, (Eds.). New York: Garland.

Darlene Clark Hine, ed., Black Women in the Nursing Profession: A Documentary History (1985);

Mabel Staupers, (1961). No Time for Prejudice New York, MacMillan.

Adah B. Thoms, (1929). Pathfinders: A History of the Progress of Colored Graduate Nurses New York: Kay Printing House.