Mary Eliza Mahoney (May 7, 1845 – January 4, 1926) was the first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879. Mahoney was one of the first African Americans to graduate from a nursing school, and she prospered in a predominantly white society. She also challenged discrimination against African Americans in nursing.
In 1908, Mahoney co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms. This organization attempted to uplift the standards and everyday lives of African-American registered nurses. The NACGN had a significant influence on eliminating racial discrimination in the registered nursing profession. In 1951, the NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association.
Mahoney has received many honors and awards for her pioneering work. She was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.