Mary Mahoney worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children (now the Dimock Community Health Center) for fifteen years before being accepted into its nursing school—the first nursing school in the United States, started in 1872. So, at the age of 33 years old, in 1878, she began her nurses' training. After earning her nursing diploma August 1, 1879, she worked as a private care nurse.
In 1896, Mary was one of the original members of a predominantly white Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada. In 1911 it became the American Nurses Association (ANA). In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) with Adah B. Thoms.
From 1911 to 1912 she served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for African American children in Long Island, New York.
In retirement, Mahoney was still concerned with women's equality and a strong supporter of women's right to vote. In 1920, she was among the first women in Boston to register to vote.
In recognition of her outstanding example to nurses of all races, the NACGN established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936. When NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association in 1951, the award was continued. Today, the award is bestowed biennially by the ANA in recognition of significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for members of minority groups. She was inducted into the ANA's Hall of Fame in 1976 and inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.
Other commemorations include a health center in Oklahoma City and a lecture series at Indiana University Northwest both named in her honor. Additionally, the House of Representatives, U.S. Congress honored her with a resolution April 2006 as ,America's first professionally trained African-American nurse. (H.CON.RES.386).
Excerpts from various Internet resources including http://www.asu.edu/nursing/courses/nur361/leader13/biography.html and http://www.essortment.com/mary-eliza-mahoney-first-african-american-graduate-nurse-63922.html.