Mabel Keaton Staupers (1890-1989) 1996 Inductee

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Mabel Staupers
ANA Hall of Fame Inductee

A leader of vision, determination, and courage, Mabel Keaton Staupers helped break down color barriers in nursing at a time when segregation was entrenched in this country. Dedicated to improving the status of black nurses and promoting better health care for black Americans, she was instrumental in organizing the first private facility in Harlem, New York, where black physicians could treat their patients.

Staupers was born on February 27, 1890, in Barbados, West Indies. At age thirteen, she emigrated to the United States with her parents, Pauline and Thomas Doyle. In 1917, Staupers graduated with honors from Freedmen's Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, DC, and worked as a private duty nurse. From 1922 to 1934, she was employed first as a surveyor of health needs and later as executive secretary for the Harlem Tuberculosis Committee, a unit of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association.

Early in her career, Staupers was confronted with the prejudice and dehumanizing discrimination affecting the lives of black Americans. In the profession of nursing, for example, training schools were largely segregated and major organizations, including the American Nurses Association and the National League of Nursing Education, denied membership to black nurses residing in selected states. Exposure to those conditions reinforced Staupers' resolve to initiate changes that would generate equal rights for black nurses, awaken the public to existing disparities, and gain improved access to equitable health care services for black citizens.

In 1934, Staupers accepted a position as the first paid executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. During her twelve-year tenure, Staupers increased membership, established a citizens advisory committee, built coalitions with other nursing and non-nursing groups, and effectively tore down the racial barriers that previously kept black nurses out of the military. In 1946, Staupers resigned her position but continued her struggle. Following admission of black nurses to full membership in the American Nurses Association in 1948, the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses was dissolved in 1949.

Honored with numerous awards, citations, and certificates, Staupers was one of the great heroines in nursing's history. Her book, No Time for Prejudice, recounts the many obstacles she overcame in her fight for equal recognition. Through the sustained efforts of Mabel Keaton Staupers, black nurses were accepted into the educational, institutional, and organizational structure of American nursing.