Mabel Keaton Staupers : An Advocate for Fighting Racial Prejudice in Nursing
2020 has been named the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization. To celebrate, every month we're highlighting a nurse who has helped change the world.
At around age 13, Mabel Keaton Staupers immigrated with her family to the United States from Barbados. She graduated from the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, DC in 1917, and in 1920 helped to establish the Booker T. Washington Sanitarium, the first hospital in Harlem to treat black Americans with tuberculosis. She served as the director of the sanitarium for one year, and then continued working in health care environments around Philadelphia and New York City.
Staupers’s research into the healthcare needs of Harlem lead to the founding of the Harlem Committee of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association. She was the organization’s first executive secretary. In 1934 Staupers was named the executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. She would later help the organization gain full integration into the American Nurses Association.
Outraged at the discrimination black nurses faced in the military, Staupers embarked on a campaign to end the Armed Forces Nurses Corps’s practice of enforcing a quota that kept many black nurses on the sidelines. She organized a large protest and even met with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1944. Thanks to her efforts, by January 1945 both the Army and Navy had ended their discriminatory practices against black nurses.
Staupers was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1951, and in 1961 published her autobiography, No Time for Prejudice: A Story of the Integration of Negroes in Nursing in the United States.