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Sat, 10.29.1870

Martha Franklin, Nursing Pioneer born

Martha M. Franklin

*Martha Franklin was born on this date in 1870.  She was a Black nurse and activist.  

Martha Minerva Franklin was born in New Milford, Connecticut to Mary E. Gauson and Henry J. Franklin.  Her father had been a soldier in the Union Army during the American Civil War.   She graduated from Meriden Public High School in 1890 as the only Black student in her class. In 1895, she moved to Philadelphia to attend the Women's Hospital Training School for Nurses.  She graduated in December 1897 and was once again the only Black student in her graduating class.  

After graduation, Franklin returned to Meriden and began working as a private nurse. In the early 1900s, Franklin moved to New Haven and became involved in the city's Black social organizations.  An advocate for family consumer services, in the fall of 1906, Franklin began to study the status of Black nurses. She mailed more than 500 letters to Black nurses, superintendents of nursing schools, and nursing organizations in order to gain a wider perspective on their experiences.   Franklin determined that the prestigious American Nurses Association was technically open to Black members, but many State Nurses Associations refused to admit Black members.

State-level membership was required to join the American Nurses Association and thus, many qualified African American nurses were barred from full membership in the national association.  Franklin sent 1,500 letters to black nurses, suggesting a national meeting.  Adah Belle Samuel Thoms hosted the meeting at the Lincoln Hospital and Home in New York City. Fifty-two nurses attended this first meeting to form the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) and Franklin was elected president.  Three goals were set out in the initial meeting of the NACGN: improve training for black nurses, reduce racial inequality in the nursing profession, and cultivate leaders from within the black nursing community.  

The NACGN received early support from the National Medical Association, a black physicians' group. The NACGN was invited to hold their meetings in tandem with the National Medical Association and articles written by nurses were published in the National Medical Association's journal.  In 1951, the NACGN merged with the American Nurses Association.  Franklin moved to New York City and graduated from a six-month postgraduate course at Lincoln Hospital. Through this course, Franklin became a registered nurse and began working as a public-school nurse. Between 1928 and 1930, Franklin studied public health nursing at Teachers College, Columbia University, but did not complete a degree.  

Martha Franklin retired and moved to New Haven. She died at the age of 98 on September 26, 1968. She is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery.  

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