Nurses who endured racial injustice work, in their retirement, to broaden access to care.


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They first met decades ago, at an Alabama veterans' hospital, during a time when black nurses were often addressed by their first names-in striking opposition to white nurses, who were always addressed by their surnames, preceded by "Miss." The friends soon developed a habit that continues to this day: addressing each other by only their last names. Now retirees, "Brown," "Comer," "Henderson," "Moore," and "Whitlow" have made volunteerism a full-time commitment. FIGURE

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In fact, work has never been a four-letter word to these five nurses. Lucy May Brown, RN, Hanna McKinley Comer, RN, Florence Robinson Henderson, RN, Edna Martel Moore, RN, and Dora Kay Whitlow, RN, were heralded as mentors, educators, and activists during their careers. Now in their 60s and 70s, these women are active volunteers.


"Being retired gives you an opportunity to give something back," explains Edna Moore. "My race has not been exposed to medical services-diabetes and hypertension are our diseases. So we run free blood pressure screenings in churches and direct people with no money to services that are free."


The Cadet Nurse Corps program, founded in 1943 to ensure enough nurses during World War II, enabled three of these women to attend the all-black Tuskegee Institute School of Nursing (part of the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1892). The corps, which provided free nursing education, increased federal monies to traditionally white nursing schools willing to expand their admission quotas of blacks. Unfortunately, black students at these segregated schools often received inferior treatment. Dora Kay Whitlow, who attended the Grady Hospital School of Nursing in Atlanta, remembers a protest against the fact that better food was served on the "white side."