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Fri, 05.03.1901

Nursing pioneer, Estelle Massey Riddle born

Estelle Massey Riddle

*Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne was born on this date in 1901.  She was a Black nurse and educator.

She served in many prominent positions and worked to eliminate racial discrimination in the nursing field.  Estelle Massey was born in Palestine, Texas, the eighth of eleven children.  Despite being uneducated and working in menial jobs, her parents, Hall and Bettye Estelle Massey, sent all of their children to college.  

Young Estelle received a teaching certificate from Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University) but decided to move into nursing after she was nearly killed in a violent incident while teaching at a public school.  She joined the first nursing class of St. Louis City Hospital #2 (later Homer G. Phillips Hospital), and became a head nurse there after graduating in 1923.  In 1926 or 1927 she moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to teach at the Lincoln School of Nursing. She attended summer sessions at Teachers College, Columbia University, and eventually attended as a full-time student with the aid of a scholarship from the Rosenwald Fund.

She received a bachelor's degree in 1930, and a master's in nursing education in 1931, becoming the first Black to do so.  She married Dr. Bedford N. Riddle in 1932.  Estelle Massey Riddle became educational director at Freedmen's Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in Washington, D.C. In 1934 she worked as a researcher for the Rosenwald Fund, then returned to Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis to become its first Black director of nursing.  

Then, in 1934, Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne (who, three years earlier, had become the first Black to obtain a master's degree in nursing) was elected president of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN).  She worked with Mabel K. Staupers for over a decade lobbying for greater recognition of Black nurses. In 1943, she was appointed as a consultant to the National Nursing Council for War Service.  In this role she recruited student and graduate nurses and acted as a liaison to nursing schools, working to change discriminatory policies. By the end of World War II, 20 new nursing schools had begun admitting Black students, the Cadet Nurse Corps had inducted 2,000 Black members, and bans on Black nurses had been rescinded by both the Army and Navy.  

In 1945 she became the first Black instructor at New York University's Department of Nursing Education.  In 1954 she became Associate Professor of Nursing Education at the University of Maryland.  Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne died on December 12, 1981.  Inducted into ANA Hall of Fame; Nurses' Education Fund established the Estelle Massey Osborne Memorial Scholarship (1982).   

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