Katrina R. Sims, “They Had the Brains but They Didn’t Have the Expertise”: Black Working-Class Women and the Nurse Training Program at the Taborian Hospital, 1940s-1960s

This article rescues from invisibility Black working-class women nurses who staffed
the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. In 1941, the Taborian Hospital
introduced one of the state’s first nurse training programs that offered Black women
economic opportunities beyond the fields of the Mississippi Delta. The article asserts
that while many struggled to meet state requirements that promised higher wages and
social mobility, Black women nurses introduced a health politic that defined health care
activism before the 1960s. In so doing, they demonstrated that civil rights included the
right to access to medical and nonmedical care that was dignified, quality, modern,
and uplifting. This article expands the historical canon by placing working-class Black
women nurses, who were essentially shut out of the professionalization movement because
they did not redirect scant family resources to enroll in traditional nursing programs,
alongside middle-class Black nurses, and Black midwives.


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