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The denial of membership in the American Nurses Association (ANA) was another humiliating manifestation of professional ostracism; instead, black nurses had to form their own parallel professional organization, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), in 1908.
During her tenure as president of the NACGN, she waged the struggle for acceptance into the American Red Cross and the U.S.
Darlene Clark Hine argues that the failure of the Armed Forces Nurse Corps and the American Red Cross to send black nurses overseas "shattered many a black nurse's dream of achieving acceptance, recognition, higher status, and increased public esteem during and after World War I." Yet while it is certainly true that black nurses in the Great War did not obtain their goal of being sent to the front, the combined pressure put on the Red Cross and the War Department by the black press, the NACGN, black physicians, and civil rights leaders accomplished two crucial goals: breaking the barrier of the Red Cross, and forcing the Secretary of War to authorize black nurses into national service.
During the war, Thoms had stated explicitly in an address to the NACGN that all blacks were in this struggle against prejudice and discrimination together; she challenged them to respond to President Wilson's appeal "that the world must be made safe for democracy." She argued that "...
"Altho' I am proud of your achievements," she told members of the NACGN at the annual meeting in Boston in 1919, "I am not content with them." Thoms emphasized that "[t]he signing of the Armistice has not in the slightest degree lessened the activities of the nursing forces." Further, she urged black nurses to maintain membership in the American Red Cross.
Two years later, Thorns reiterated her message during the NACGN meeting in Washington D.C., when black nurses were honoured with a reception at the White House.
The NACGN itself worked closely with the National Urban League and the NAACP, urging all nurses to use "their contacts with many families, to encourage other Negroes to value their right of suffrage." Mary Mahoney, the first black nurse, also became one of the first women in her city to register to vote.
According to Staupers, Thoms had become the first recipient of the NACGN's "Mary Mahoney Award" in 1936, not only for her success in having black nurses accepted into the Army Nurse Corps in World War I, but also for publicizing her experiences.
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