Mary Eliza Mahoney. Her very name is synonymous with the advancement of minorities in nursing. As America’s first professionally trained black nurse, Mahoney (1845-1926) has been an inspiration for generations of nurses. So it’s no surprise that the profession’s most prestigious award for nurses who have made significant contributions to opening doors of opportunity for nurses of color is named in her honor.

“Every nurse knows [about] Mary Mahoney,” says Harriet Brathwaite, AAS, MSN, RN, the 2004 recipient of the Mary Mahoney Award, which is conferred by the American Nurses Association (ANA). “I first had heard about her before I ever became a nurse. She is one of those icons in nursing.

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