Mary Eliza Mahoney

First Black trained nurse

Mary Eliza Mahoney always wanted to be a nurse. But becoming one was not easy for a young Black girl in the late 1800s.

When she was a teenager Mary went to work at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. The hospital was unique. Only women worked there.

Mary worked at the hospital for 15 years and had several jobs. She worked as a janitor, cook, washer woman and nurse’s aide.

In 1878 she was admitted to the hospital’s nursing program. The program was intense and extremely difficult. 40 women entered the 16-month program, but only four, including Eliza completed it. When Mary graduated in August 1879, she became the first Black person professionally trained in nursing.

After graduating Mary tried to find work in a public hospital but faced discrimination because of her race. She eventually found work as a private nurse for wealthy patients.

Eliza was committed to nursing and growing the profession. In 1896 she joined a nursing association. Most members were white and did not welcome Black nurses.

In 1908 the Association of Colored Graduate Nurses was established. to support Black nurses. Mary was one of the first members. When the organization held its first convention in 1909 Mary gave the welcome speech. 50 nurses attended the convention. Half of them attended because of an invitation from Mary.

Mary worked as a nurse for 40 years. In 1936 the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses established the Mary Mahoney Award in her honor.

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Bernard Harris

Bernard Harris

Bernard Harris was the first Black astronaut to walk in space. He was selected by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in 1990 and became an astronaut in 1991.

Harris’ first space flight was on the space shuttle Columbia where he flew a ten day mission and logged over 239 hours and 4,164,183 miles in space. During the mission the crew conducted research in physical and life sciences.

In 1995 he flew his second mission in space. That mission was the first flight of the joint Russian-American Space Program and included a rendezvous with the Russian Space Station, Mir. During that mission Harris became the first African American to walk in space.

Bernard Harris was born in Temple, Texas on June 26, 1956. He received a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Houston in 1978, and a doctorate in medicine from Texas Tech University School of Medicine in 1982. He trained as a flight surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He also attended the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and received a master’s degree in biomedical science in 1996.

Harris has received several awards from NASA including the NASA Award of Merit and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.

Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Maynard DalyWho was Marie Maynard Daly?

She was an educator, biochemist, researcher, science pioneer and the first African American woman in America to receive a PhD in chemistry. She was committed to improving heart health and determining factors that led to heart attacks. Additionally, with the lack of diversity in the study of the sciences, she was committed to developing programs that increased the enrollment of African Americans in medical school and in graduate science programs.

Marie Maynard Daly was born in 1921 in Corona, Queens, New York. She loved reading and was particularly fond of books written by scientists. Her favorite was “Microbe Hunters,” a book about the major discoveries of the microscopic world.

Daly’s parents supported and encouraged her love of science. Her father once had hopes of becoming a chemist himself but was forced to drop out of Cornell University for financial reasons.

Maynard Daly attended school in New York City. She studied science at Queens College in Flushing, New York and graduated magna cum laude in 1942. She completed a master’s program in chemistry at New York University followed by a doctoral program at Columbia University. Her studies at Columbia included research on how the body’s chemicals aid in the digestion of food. She graduated from Columbia in 1947 with a PhD in chemistry.

Shortly thereafter she applied and received a grant from the American Cancer Society to examine how proteins are created in the body. Her research led her to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research where she was part of several important medical studies with leading scientists.

In 1955 Dr. Daly joined the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia where she began collaborating with Dr. Quentin Deming, a physician renowned for his work on how various chemicals influence the heart’s mechanics. Daly and Deming authored numerous articles that were published in medical journals. Their research advanced the understanding of how foods and diet affect the heart and circulatory system and they pioneered studies on the connection between cholesterol and clogged arteries.

Dr. Daly left Columbia in 1960 and joined the faculty of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She continued her collaboration with Dr. Deming as well as her research on underlying causes of heart attacks. She remained at Albert Einstein until her retirement in 1986.

During her career Dr. Daly taught at several universities including historically black Howard University where she taught courses on the physical sciences. After retirement, and in keeping with her commitment to encourage more African Americans to study science and medicine, Dr. Daly established a scholarship fund in 1988 in honor of her father and for the benefit African American science students at Queens College.

James Beckwourth

Who was James Beckwourth?

He was an explorer, scout, fur trapper and mountain man.

James Beckwourth (1798-1866) was born into slavery in Virginia. He gained his freedom when he was manumitted by his slave owner who was also his father.

According to legend Beckwourth was well liked and respected by Native Americans and was made an honorary chief. He spent several years living with the Crow Indian nation and married a Crow woman.

He left the Crow nation in the 1830s and joined the Missouri volunteer military as a scout. During the Seminole War in Florida he scouted for General Zachary Taylor, who later became the 12th president of the United States.

Beckwourth left the military in 1840 and spent his next years exploring the west and working as a scout for military parties.

In 1850 he discovered a pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that was a safer and faster route for pioneers trying to reach California during the Gold Rush. That pass became the Beckwourth Pass and is now part of the United States Interstate Highway system.

James Beckwourth

Beckwourth Pass (current day)