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Archive for November 16th, 2022

Michal Scott: The Dream and the Hope of the Slave: Mary Eliza Mahoney 1845-1926 (Contest)
Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

UPDATE: The winner is…Debra Guyette!

“I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

When I read this line penned in Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise,” the inspirational example of a woman like Mary Eliza Mahoney comes to my mind.

Mary was born in the spring of 1845 in Boston Massachusetts to former slaves. They had moved to Boston from North Carolina in search of a better life for themselves and their children.

At age ten, Mary attended the Phillips School, one of the first integrated schools in Boston. By eighteen, she knew she wanted to be a nurse and began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children. For fifteen years, she acted as janitor, cook, washerwoman, and finally as a nurse’s aide, where she got hands-on experience with the nursing profession. In 1878, at the age of thirty-three, Mary’s diligence and work ethic gained her admittance to the hospital’s professional graduate school for nursing, despite not meeting the age range criteria of being twenty-one to thirty-one. The program, which ran for sixteen months, offered lectures and first-hand experience in the hospital. Of the forty-two students that entered the program in 1878, Mary was one of four to graduate in 1879, making her the first African American in the US to earn a professional nursing license. Due to racial discrimination in the public sphere, Mary worked as a private care nurse, mostly, but not solely, for white wealthy families.

Because the nursing associations she was active in were not always welcoming to blacks, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908. The mission of the NACGN was to improve educational access for black women to nursing practices, raise their living standards, and change the poor perception society had of them. It existed until 1951 when it merged with the American Nurses Association.

In 1911, Mary became the director of the Howard Orphanage Asylum for black children in Kings Park, Long Island and served until 1912.

After forty years, she finally retired from nursing but not from advocacy. When the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920, Mahoney was among the first women who registered to vote in Boston.

Mary lived until she was eighty and died of breast cancer on January 4, 1926. Ten years later her achievements were honored by having an award named after her to recognize individual nurses or groups of nurses who promote integration in the nursing field. One of those honorees campaigned to have a monument erected in her honor. In 1973, the monument was dedicated at her gravesite. In 1993, Mary was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.

Many African-Americans, male and female—myself included—are the embodiments of the dreams and hopes of their enslaved ancestors. I’m glad to have learned of the dream and the hope that was Mary Eliza Mahoney.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share your thoughts on Mary’s story or on anyone you can think of who paved the way for others. 

One Breath Away

Sentenced to hand for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. Never having been courted, cuddled or spooned, Mary now fears any kind of physical intimacy when arousal forces her to relive the asphyxiation of her hanging. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Wealthy freeborn-Black Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing a relationship with Mary was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.

Then just as Eban begins to win Mary’s trust, an enemy from the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…


He shouldn’t have agreed to the marriage stipulation, but Judah wouldn’t return the land to a bachelor. At the time marrying hadn’t entered Eban’s mind. Without Nora, he had no desire to leave a legacy anyway. And after sampling women of many races, Eban accepted he’d never marry. Then the stars changed his mind.

He glanced at them now. They shimmered as they had the night of that fateful watch. According to the first mate who swore by astrology, he’d perceived a special celestial alignment for Eban. The stars foretold a coupling resulting from a rescue in which Eban would meet his wife. Having found Mary, Eban knew that prophecy would be fulfilled.

“How could ya have believed ya heritage held no worth for ya without Nora?”

Eban blenched, though he shouldn’t have been surprised his aunt knew where his thoughts had gone and had headed him off at the pass.

He clucked his teeth. “To tell the truth—”

His aunt snorted. “That’d be a nice change.”

Eban frowned, but ignored the barb and continued. “I came home, not to reclaim Heart’s Ease, but to assuage my curiosity. Secretly I’d hoped to find Nora as miserable as I was. Then I met Mary.” Mary. He chuckled. “After meeting her, I see how short-sighted—how Esau-like—I’ve been.”

He glanced up again. “She’ll marry me, Clem. It’s written right there in the sky, and the stars don’t lie.”