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The Black Nurses of Provident Hospital

Though African American women have served as nurses and caretakers since the United States’ period of enslavement, Black women who wished to receive formal training in nursing were often denied the opportunity solely because of their race. In 1889, after Reverend Louis Reynolds’s sister Emma expressed her frustration with Chicago-area hospitals refusing to admit her to their nursing programs, he enlisted the help of his friend Dr. Daniel Hale Williams to use his connections to find a suitable program for her. Ultimately it was decided that establishing a new nursing program for African Americans was the best course of action, as it would create educational opportunities for Black women and also attempt to shield them from hostile white supremacist learning environments. Dr. Williams founded Provident Hospital in 1891, and a few years later, Emma Reynolds and three other women became the nursing program’s first graduating class. 

In our latest blog post, CHM assistant curator Brittany Hutchinson writes about Provident Hospital, the first African American-owned and operated hospital in the US, and how it created opportunities for Black nurses in Chicago. Read the post.

An undated photograph of nurses in front of Provident Hospital at its second location at 36th and Dearborn Streets, Chicago; CHM, ICHi-040212. Nurses from Provident Hospital’s class of 1904; CHM, ICHi-030235

The Museum’s blog is a space where we give you a look behind-the-scenes, highlight items in our collection, and share Chicago stories you won’t see elsewhere. This post is part of a series in which we share the stories of local women who made history in anticipation of an exhibition about Chicago women and the vote. Explore the Women’s History Series.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories