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Honoring 3 Trailblazers

As an African American woman in STEM, it has been my ongoing goal to find role models for myself and my students. I’d like to highlight the contributions of these three trailblazers in my blog post. Enjoy.

Mary Eliza Mahoney (May 7, 1845 – January 4, 1926)

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American woman to become a nurse. Her parents were freed slaves who immigrated from the South to the North. From 18 years of age to 33 years of age Mary worked as a cook and a maid at a hospital. Because of her connection to the hospital, Mary was admitted to their nursing school. After graduating, she worked as a private nurse. And in 1908, she became a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN).

Alice Augusta Ball (July 24, 1892 – December 31, 1916)

Alice Augusta Ball was the first African American woman to receive a master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Hawaii. Her grandfather was a famous ex-slave/anabolitionist. For her master’s thesis, Ball examined the chemical compounds in Piper methysticum. In her later work Ball modified a treatment for leprosy using chaulmoogra oil. The formerly used treatment caused blisters on a patient’s skin. But Ball extracted an ester from the chaulmoogra oil which caused no blisters. Her extraction was coined the “Ball Method.”

Dorothy Lavinia Brown (January 7, 1914 – June 13, 2004)

Dorothy Lavinia Brown was the first African American woman to become a surgeon. She was raised in an orphanage from the age of 5 to 15 years old. At 15 years old Dorothy worked as a washerwoman and then a maid. With the aid of a scholarship young Dorothy was able to go to a historically black college and then a historically black medical school. She worked as a surgeon during World War II in the segregated South.


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