History

Mabel Keaton Staupers

Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989) was a prominent nurse and advocate for racial equality and improved healthcare for African Americans. She was born on February 27, 1890, in Barbados, West Indies, and later moved to the United States. Staupers began her nursing career in the early 20th century when racial segregation and discrimination were prevalent in the healthcare system. Despite facing numerous challenges, she dedicated herself to breaking down barriers and advancing the nursing profession.

Lillian Smith (right) congratulating Mrs. Mabel Keaton Staupers (left), winner of the 36th Springarn medal

In the 1930s and 1940s, Staupers served as the executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). Under her leadership, the NACGN successfully campaigned for the integration of African American nurses into the Armed Forces Nurse Corps during World War II. This effort opened up opportunities for African American nurses to serve their country and gain professional recognition.

Staupers continued her advocacy beyond the war years. She played a vital role in the merger of the NACGN with the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1951. This merger marked a significant milestone in the fight against racial segregation in nursing organizations and was a step toward advancing equality within the nursing profession.

Wallace Terry, Mable Staupers, Alex Quaison-Sackey

Throughout her career, Staupers worked tirelessly to improve healthcare access for African Americans. She fought against discriminatory practices in hospitals and nursing schools, lobbied for equal rights and opportunities for African American nurses, and promoted the importance of diversity and inclusivity in healthcare. In recognition of her contributions, Staupers received numerous awards and honors. She was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The Mabel Keaton Staupers Scholarship was established in her honor to support the education of African American nurses.

Mabel K. Staupers (center) with nurses she has trained in the Harlem Hospital c.1963.

Mabel Keaton Staupers’s activism and determination played a significant role in dismantling racial barriers in nursing and healthcare. Her lifelong dedication to equality and access to quality healthcare has left a lasting impact on the profession and continues to inspire nurses today.

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