Nursing Legend Dr. M. Elizabeth Carnegie Passes Away
MN is saddened to report that M. Elizabeth Carnegie, DPA, RN, FAAN, a pioneering educator, author and unceasing champion of racial equality in nursing, passed away on February 20 at the age of 91. Her extraordinary accomplishments in advancing educational and professional opportunities for nurses of color over a career that spanned more than 50 years earned her countless honors, including the American Nurses Association’s Mary Mahoney Award, the American Academy of Nursing’s Living Legend Award and induction into the ANA’s Nursing Hall of Fame.
Born Mary Elizabeth Lancaster in Baltimore, Dr. Carnegie fought tirelessly to increase African Americans’ access to professional nursing education at a time when their options were severely limited by racial segregation. In 1943 she established the baccalaureate nursing program at historically black Hampton University in Virginia. She then served as dean of the nursing school at Florida A&M University, another HBCU, and spearheaded a successful effort to racially integrate the Florida Nurses Association.
An accomplished writer, journalist and historian, Dr. Carnegie worked for 25 years as an editor for the American Journal of Nursing Company, including five years as chief editor of the journal Nursing Research. She authored three books, edited or contributed chapters to more than 20 others and published scores of articles in prestigious journals. Her acclaimed third book, The Path We Tread: Blacks in Nursing Worldwide, 1854-1994, is now in its third edition and is considered the definitive reference on the history and accomplishments of black nurses.
Dr. Carnegie also served as president of the American Academy of Nursing and as chairman of the ANA Minority Fellowship Program’s national advisory committee. She held distinguished professorships at many universities as well as endowed chairs at Adelphi University and Memphis State University. In 1994, Howard University’s Division of Nursing in Washington, D.C., established the M. Elizabeth Carnegie Endowed Visiting Professorship in Nursing Research—which includes an annual research conference—in her honor.
In the recent book The Soul of Leadership: Journeys in Leadership and Achievement with Distinguished African American Nurses (reviewed on Page TK), Dr. Carnegie summed up her life in these words: “If I have done anything by taking a stand for racial equality in the nursing profession and making sure that black nurses are in the literature, having been left out for so long, I feel that I have fulfilled my purpose for having been in this world.” She was a constant source of inspiration for several generations of minority nurses and her irreplaceable presence will be greatly missed.