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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.”


19 comments to “Michal Scott: The Dream and the Hope of the Slave: Mary Eliza Mahoney 1845-1926 (Contest)”

  1. Delilah
    · November 16th, 2022 at 9:50 am · Link

    I loved reading about Mary’s dogged determination and how she used her success to help others.

    I recall meeting Grace Hopper in the 80s. She was a Navy Rear Admiral and a pioneer in computer science. She was a tiny, frail woman who was already elderly and still on active duty. This gray-haired woman shuffled to down the aisle to get to the podium to speak, and all the young people in the audience wondered what we were about to see and hear, and she shared the most amazing anecdotes about the early days of computer development and the direction she saw it going. She didn’t let her sex get in the way of her curiosity or determination to be part of that new era. She defied the odds and earned respect.

  2. Colleen C.
    · November 16th, 2022 at 12:13 pm · Link

    I love people that know what they want and work for it… no matter the obstacles that are in their way… they find a way…
    Thanks for sharing a bit of her story with us!

  3. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 16th, 2022 at 5:42 pm · Link

    What a treat, Delilah. I remember the honor I had being able to meet the pioneering Episcopal priest Pauli Murray. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 16th, 2022 at 5:43 pm · Link

    Glad you enjoyed her story, Colleen.

  5. Mary Preston
    · November 16th, 2022 at 6:07 pm · Link

    I was a nurse before I retired and most of my sisters too. Inspiring thank you.

  6. Sara DoMoe
    · November 16th, 2022 at 6:33 pm · Link

    Mary Eliza Mahoney was a hero. I loved reading her story and she is an inspiration to others. Thank you so much for sharing her story with us.

  7. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 16th, 2022 at 8:19 pm · Link

    How cool Mary. Thanks for your dedication to the healing of others.

  8. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 16th, 2022 at 8:20 pm · Link

    Hi Sara, so glad you found Mary’s story inspiring.

  9. Debra Guyette
    · November 17th, 2022 at 5:49 am · Link

    She sounds amazing and very brave as well as determined. Thanks

  10. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 17th, 2022 at 8:05 am · Link

    Hi Debra, she certainly was. Stories like Mary’s lift my spirits whenever I feel down. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. flchen1
    · November 17th, 2022 at 1:26 pm · Link

    I love learning about women like Mary–it is a blessing and encouragement to know that people are willing to pour themselves into doing good, and it’s an inspiration to consider where I might focus efforts toward the same.

  12. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 17th, 2022 at 7:14 pm · Link

    Hi flchen1, what you say is so true. When I feel down or discouraged I think of women like Mary and tell myself “go and do likewise.” Thanks for commenting.

  13. Diane Sallans
    · November 18th, 2022 at 11:35 am · Link

    Certainly, an inspirational story – she had much to overcome but persevered. I wonder if her pay was less than a white nurse. Her story should be included in a book of some sort – an anthology of women or nurses of the 19th century perhaps.

  14. ButtonsMom2003
    · November 18th, 2022 at 2:35 pm · Link

    Mary Eliza Mahoney’s story was truly inspirational and thank you for sharing it. While it was sad and horrifying, I recently saw the movie Till and found his mother’s response to her son’s death very inspiring.

  15. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 18th, 2022 at 4:14 pm · Link

    Hi Diane, that would be so cool. I first learned about Eliza in a black history book chapter on African-Americans and medicine. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 18th, 2022 at 4:15 pm · Link

    Hi ButtonsMom2003, it is amazing how resilient the human spirit is, especially in the face of tragedy. Thanks for commenting.

  17. bn100
    · November 22nd, 2022 at 8:59 pm · Link

    inspiring person

  18. Anna Taylor Sweringen
    · November 23rd, 2022 at 6:33 am · Link

    Hi bn100, she certainly was.

  19. Delilah
    · November 27th, 2022 at 7:22 am · Link

    Thanks to Anna for being a great guest as always.

    The winner of the GC is…Debra Guyette!

Comments are closed.