Mabel Keaton Staupers was determined to eliminate racial prejudice in the nursing profession. She is best known as a nursing pioneer for putting an end to segregation in the Armed Forces Nurse Corps during World War II. She worked tirelessly throughout her career to integrate black professionals into the nursing field in the United States.
Staupers was born in Barbados, West Indies, on February 27, 1890. Her family moved to the United States when she was 13 years old, and she later graduated with honors from the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, DC. She began working as a private duty nurse shortly after graduation.
Staupers was a private-duty nurse in Washington, D.C. at the time. In addition, at the Booker T. Washington Sanatorium in New York, she organized an inpatient clinic for African-Americans with tuberculosis. She was also the Sanatorium’s first superintendent from 1920 to 1922, and later the Harlem Tuberculosis Committee’s executive secretary from 1922 to 1934.
Staupers continued her health promotion mission as the first executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, fighting for the inclusion of Black nurses in the Army and Navy during World War II. Due in part to her efforts, full inclusion of nurses of all races was granted in 1945, and Black nurses were allowed to join the American Nursing Association in 1948. Because of her determination, black nurses were able to enroll in various American nursing programs.
Staupers’ work earned her numerous awards, certificates, and citations. In 1951, she received the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“No Time for Prejudice: A Story of the Integration of Negroes in Nursing in the United States,” her autobiography, was published in 1961. Staupers passed away in 1989, and in 1996, she was inducted into the American Nursing Association Hall of Fame.