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Thoms, Adah B. | Pathfinders. A History of the Progress of Colored Graduate Nurses

  • First and only edition of this important early source on African American nurses. With the ownership signature of Aileen Cole Stewart, one of the nurses featured in the text.

    Author Adah Thoms (1863-1943) started her career as a nurse in her thirties, moving from Virginia to New York for her education and eventually becoming assistant director of the School of Nursing of the Lincoln Hospital and Home in Brooklyn, where she helped institute the teaching of public health. Thoms was a founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, sponsoring its first meeting at the Lincoln Hospital, and later serving as treasurer and president. “She also attended the International Nursing Council in Cologne, Germany, where, with three other Black delegates, she urged the admission of black nurses from Africa, South America, and the Caribbean” (Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p. 1286). After retiring in 1923 Thoms continued advocating for Black nurses in the American Nurses Association and National Organization for Public Health, which led to their incorporation of her organization.

    The previous owner of this volume, Aileen Cole Stewart, was one of eighteen Black nurses enrolled in the Army Nurse Corps in 1918, and she appears in a group photos with her colleagues at page 160. As this chapter explains, “During World War I, Thoms fought hard, as president of the National Association of Coloured Graduate Nurses, to gain the admission of black nurses into the American Red Cross. Although the head of the Red Cross agreed, this was vetoed by the Surgeon General of the United States. By 1917, one African-American nurse was enrolled in the Red Cross but given no assignment. By 1918, the great influenza epidemic made the use of all available nurses urgent, and eighteen black nurses were enrolled in the Army Nurse Corps, where, although they treated sick soldiers of all backgrounds, they themselves lived in segregated quarters” (Ogilvie p. 1286).

    “Little is known about Aileen Cole Stewart’s early life, but she did write about her experiences as a young nurse in training. She attended the Freedmen’s Hospital Training School in Washington, DC and studied at the hospital’s training center at Howard University Medical School. She participated in the three-year program for African American nurses to earn their diplomas.” When the great influenza increased demand for nurses, “Stewart and a few other Freedmen’s nurses were sent to areas where the railroad workers were dying quickly. The Red Cross sent Stewart to Putney, West Virginia with another nurse. Conditions for the railroad workers soon got worse, and Stewart was sent by herself to a small town called Cascade. She worked alone in the mountains until she received a letter from the director of field nursing at the American Red Cross asking Stewart to serve. On December 1, 1918, Stewart began her service in the Army Nurse Corps, along with 17 other African American nurses. Half of the nurses went to Camp Sherman in Ohio, and half went to Camp Grant in Illinois. Stewart was stationed at Camp Sherman, where the African American nurses lived in segregated areas... Stewart continued her career in nursing as a New York public health nurse. She earned a degree in public health nursing from the University of Washington at the age of 68 and continued to volunteer with the Red Cross youth program until she died” (Alexander, ”Aileen Cole Stewart”, National Women’s History Museum biography).

  • ...With Biographies of Many Prominent Nurses (Illustrated). New York: Kay Printing House for the author, 1929.

    Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles to spine and upper board gilt. Frontispiece and 14 photographic plates of which 12 are double-sided. Ownership signature to the front pastedown, gift inscription to the frontispiece. Cloth worn at the corners and ends of spine, a couple of faint marks to the cloth, spine titles dulled. An excellent copy, the contents fresh.