July 2, 1918

Frances Reed Elliott was the first African-American woman accepted into the American Red Cross Nursing Service. She earned this recognition on July 2, 1918.

Elliott was born in Shelby, North Carolina into an illegal interracial marriage of an African-American Cherokee share cropper and the daughter of the plantation owner. Tragedy struck and her father had to flee. By the age of five both of her parents were dead. In the foster care system, her education was sporadic at best, but she honed her own reading and writing skills despite having no teacher.

Elliott graduated Knoxville College at the age of 25 and took a teaching career to pay for further education. But Elliott longed “to be a nurse and help little children.” Elliott entered the Freedmen’s Hospital Training School for Nurses in Washington, D.C. in 1910. The final exams in 1913 were given to students based on race; the exam for the white nurses was considered the hardest and most highly esteemed. Elliott demanded that she take the exam with the white students and became the first African-American to D.C. to pass the exam.

Her first job was as a private-duty nurse. Later, she worked at Provident Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and completed additional courses at Columbia University.

Frances Reed Elliot – Nurse – Associated Links:

Link to Photo Credit:               Frances Reed Elliot
Link to Photo Credit: Frances Reed Elliot

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