Adah Belle Samuels Thoms (January 12, 1870 – February 21, 1943) was an African American nurse who cofounded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (serving as President from 1916-1923), was acting director of the Lincoln School for Nurses (New York), and fought for African Americans to serve as American Red Cross nurses during World War I and eventually as U.S. Army Nurse Corps nurses starting with the flu epidemic in December 1918. She was among the first nurses inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame when it was established in 1976.
The National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses was a professional organization for African American nurses founded in 1908.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is a professional organization to advance and protect the profession of nursing. It started in 1896 as the Nurses Associated Alumnae and was renamed the American Nurses Association in 1911. It is based in Silver Spring, Maryland and Ernest Grant is the current president.
Thoms was born Adah Belle Samuels in Richmond, Virginia, to Harry and Melvina Samuels.
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. It is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Greater Richmond Region. Richmond was incorporated in 1742 and has been an independent city since 1871.
As a young woman, she married briefly, and kept the surname Thoms. Before she became a nurse, she was a school teacher in Richmond, Virginia, and then in the 1890s, she went to New York, to study elocution and speech at Cooper Union.She then studied nursing at the Women's Infirmary and School of Therapeutic Massage, graduating in 1900 as the only black woman in a class of thirty.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, commonly known as Cooper Union or The Cooper Union and informally referred to, especially during the 19th century, as 'the Cooper Institute', is a private college at Cooper Square on the border of the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Inspired in 1830 when Peter Cooper learned about the government-supported École Polytechnique in France, Cooper Union was established in 1859. The school was built on a radical new model of American higher education based on founder Peter Cooper's fundamental belief that an education "equal to the best technology schools [then] established" should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be "open and free to all".
Thoms continued her education at the Lincoln Hospital and Home School of Nursing, a school for black women, graduating in 1905. Although she served as acting director between 1906 and 1923, racist policies prevented her receiving the official title of director.
Thoms became involved in international efforts to advance the nursing profession, attending the International Council of Nurses in 1912.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations. It was founded in 1899 and was the first international organization for health care professionals. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
In the first part of the 20th century, Thoms worked with Martha Minerva Franklin and Mary Mahoney to organize the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. The organizing meeting was held at Lincoln Home and Hospital, and hosted by Thoms, in 1907.The organization, founded in 1908 by a group of 52 black nurses, aimed to secure the full integration of black women nurses into the nursing profession. Focused on the American Nurses' Association, nursing education programs, employment opportunities, and equal pay, the organization was ultimately dissolved by president Mabel Keaton Staupers in 1950, after successfully integrating the US Armed Forces (WWII) and the American Nurses' Association (1948).
Martha Minerva Franklin was one of the first people to campaign for racial equality in nursing.
Racial integration, or simply integration, includes desegregation. In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely bringing a racial minority into the majority culture. Desegregation is largely a legal matter, integration largely a social one.
Mabel Keaton Staupers was a pioneer in the American nursing profession. Faced with racial discrimination after graduating from nursing school, Staupers became an advocate for racial equality in the nursing profession.
Thoms served as president of the NACGN from 1916–1923,and played a critical role in lobbying the American Red Cross to permit black nurses to enroll during World War I, in order to lead to service in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. The Surgeon General agreed to limited enrollment of African American nurses in the Army Nurse Corps in July 1918. Enrollments started during the flu epidemic in December 1918.
Thoms was received at the White House by President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding in 1921, during the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurse Convention in Washington, D.C.
In 1923, she remarried, to Henry Smith, who died within the year.
Adah Belle Samuels Thoms died in New York City, February 21, 1943.
Thoms moved to Harlem, New York in 1893 to pursue her aspirations to become a nurse.This was mainly because African Americans had a better opportunity for advancement up North. Thoms enrolled in a nursing course at the Women's Infirmary and School of Therapeutic Massage as a start to nursing.
In 1903, Thoms entered the program and was offered the position as head nurse of one of the surgical wards in 1904. In 1905, Thoms was hired as the head nurse at the Lincoln Hospital and Home. A year later, she was promoted to superintendent of nurses and acting director and kept the positions until she retired in 1923.
Thoms served as an acting director of Lincoln Hospital and Home School of Nursing from 1906 to 1923 and was never promoted to full director because of racial descrimination.
In 1908, Adah met Martha Minerva Franklin, who at the time was striving towards holding a conference for 52 graduate black nurses. Franklin wanted the support of Lincoln School for Nurses Alumnae Association, who eventually sponsored the meeting. The idea of establishing an organization for African-American nurses attracted Thoms, leading to the development of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses.
Because of Thom's experience with discrimination, it drove her to start the NACGN with Franklin in order for African-American nurses to achieve higher professional standards and develop leadership among black nurses.
Lillian D. Wald was an American nurse, humanitarian and author. She was known for contributions to human rights and was the founder of American community nursing. She founded the Henry Street Settlement in New York City and was an early advocate to have nurses in public schools.
Mary Eliza Mahoney 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.
Harlem Hospital School of Nursing was a training school for African-American women established in 1923. It was founded due to the lack of nursing schools in New York that accepted African American women. Until 1923, the Lincoln Hospital School for Nurses in The Bronx was the only school that allowed the enrollment of Black women.
Mary Elizabeth Carnegie was an educator and author in the field of nursing, known for breaking down racial barriers. She was the first black nurse to serve as a voting member on the board of a state nursing association. She was later president of the American Academy of Nursing and edited the journal Nursing Research.
Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc (ΧΗΦ) is an international, nonprofit, professional service organization for registered professional nurses and student nurses, representing many cultures and diverse ethnic backgrounds. The Sorority has more than 8000 members located throughout the United States, the District of Columbia, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Monrovia, Liberia. Priscilla J. Murphy is the current National President.
Esther McCready is a retired nurse and teacher who desegregated the University of Maryland School of Nursing in 1950. The case was filed in 1949 in Baltimore City Court by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People lawyers Charles Hamilton Houston and Donald Gaines Murray. After the court sided with the university, the case went to the Maryland Court of Appeals where it was argued by Houston, Murray, and Thurgood Marshall The lower court’s ruling was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals and McCready began classes on September 5, 1950. She is in the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.
Opaline Deveraux Wadkins (1912–2000) organized the first school to train black nurses in Oklahoma City, fought for desegregation of the College of Nursing at the University of Oklahoma and founded the School of Nursing at Langston University. She was the first African American nurse to earn a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma. She was honored in 1987 by the Oklahoma Public Health Association and inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.
Jessie Sleet Scales (1865–1956) was the first black public health nurse in the United States. Scales contributed to the development and growth of public health nursing in New York City and is considered by many to be a health nurse pioneer.
Mary E.P. Davis (1840-1924) was a nursing instructor and a founder of the American Journal of Nursing (AJN). Davis, along with Sophia Palmer, created AJN in 1899, with the first issue going out on October 1900. In order to create the journal, Davis reached out to 5,000 different people to subscribe to AJN and eventually started with 550 paid subscriptions. She also raised money for the journal and covered the mailing costs herself. Palmer and Davis also helped create the American Nursing Association. Davis was one of the founders of the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses which later became the National League for Nursing. She also served as the president of the Massachusetts State Nurses' Association.
Mary Lee Mills was an American nurse. Born into a family of eleven children, she attended the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in a nursing degree and became a registered nurse. After working as a midwife, she joined the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) in 1946 and served as their chief nursing officer of Liberia, working to hold some of their first campaigns in public health education. Mills later worked in Lebanon and established the country's first nursing school, and helped to combat treatable diseases. She was later assigned to South Vietnam, Cambodia and Chad to provide medical education.
Emma Ann Reynolds (1862-1917) was an African-American teacher, who had a desire to address the health needs of her community. Refused entrance to nurses training schools because of racism, she influenced the creation of Provident Hospital in Chicago and was one of its first four nursing graduates. Continuing her education, Reynolds became a medical doctor serving at posts in Texas, Louisiana and Washington, D.C. before permanently settling in Ohio and completing her practice there.
Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne was an African American nurse and educator. She served in many prominent positions and worked to eliminate racial discrimination in the nursing field.
Hulda Margaret Lyttle Frazier was an American nurse educator and hospital administrator who spent most of her career in Nashville, Tennessee at Meharry Medical College School of Nursing and affiliated Hubbard Hospital. Lyttle advocated for the modernization and professionalization of African American nurses' training programs, and improved practice standards in hospitals that served African Americans.
Mary Eliza Merritt was an American nurse who was the first African American to be licensed as nurse in Kentucky. Merritt was awarded the Mary Mahoney Medal for distinguished service in nursing from the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1949.
Sara Iredell Fleetwood (1849–1908) was an African-American clubwoman and teacher. She was involved in the movement of black women into professional nursing, graduating as one of the first nurses from Howard University's Freedman's Hospital School of Nursing. She became the nursing superintendent at Freedman's, organized the Freedmen's Nursing Association and served as the first woman of color on the nurse's examining board of the District of Columbia.