Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne

February 4

Nurses are a unique kind. They have this insatiable need to care for others, which is both their greatest strength and fatal flaw.

Jean Watson, American nurse theorist and nursing professor

Estelle’s life story was taken from her Find A Grave Memorial.

Photo taken from Find A Grave

Estelle Osborne, 80, Is Dead; Leader in Nursing Profession
Published: December 17, 1981
NY Times

Estelle M. Osborne, a leader in the nursing profession for many years, died last Saturday in Oakland, Calif., where she had been living in retirement. Mrs. Osborne, a former resident of Elmhurst, Queens, was 80 years old.

She had been an official of the National League for Nursing, a New York-based coalition seeking to improve education and services in nursing.

She had also been a director of the American Nurses’ Association, vice president of the National Council of Negro Women and a member of the New York Urban League’s advisory committee.

Mrs. Osborne, who had been an assistant professor at New York University’s School of Nursing, Held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University.

She is survived by a sister, Mamie McGruder of Los Angeles.

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Health and Medicine Journals » ABNF Journal » Article details, “Great Black Nurses Series: Estelle Massey…”
Great Black Nurses Series: Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne
ABNF Journal
ACADEMIC JOURNAL ARTICLE
By Mosley, Marie O. Pitts
ABNF Journal , Vol. 13, No. 5

Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne (May 3, 1901- Dec. 12, 1981), African-American nurse, author, administrator, researcher, and consultant was a pioneer in organizational administration and a significant leader in struggles to eliminate discrimination in society as a whole and in the national professional nursing organizations in this country.

Mrs. Osborne’s fight to eliminate exclusionary practices for blacks in nursing occurred during the time when rigid patterns of segregation and discrimination in nursing education and employment for blacks existed across this country. Black codes limiting access to institutions of learning and job opportunities, designed to constrain and contain Blacks, were legislated and enforced by laws and customs in the North and in the South. Working tirelessly for forty-three years, Mrs. Osborne was steadfast in her efforts to ensure that future Black nurses would have the opportunity to be experientially and educationally prepared to assume higher positions in nursing and have the opportunity to do so.

Estelle Massey was born in Palestine Texas, the eighth of eleven children, to Hall and Bettye Estelle Massey. Hall was just a handyman and farmer and Betty Estelle a domestic, but they were the most progressive and intelligent parents in town, Black or White. Dogged determination to rise above social norms and expectations of Blacks was demonstrated in where and how they lived and the way they reared their children. Living in the heart of an impoverished region where many Blacks and Whites lacked decent housing for their children, Hall bought property at the edge of the White section of town and built a home for his family. The Massey family was a self-sufficient, self-contained unit. The males fed the family and earned money by raising and selling their own vegetables and livestock, and Mrs. Massey made the family’s clothing and earned money cleaning White people’s homes. Even though Mrs. Massey worked in the homes of Whites, she never allowed her daughters to do so. She knew firsthand that Whites felt that Blacks were inferior, and she never wanted her daughters to be exposed to this type of ignorant bigotry. Neither parent was educated, but they determined that their children would be. All of the Massey children received an education that included a minimum of two years of college – an oddity for this time and place.

After high school, following in two of her sibling’s footsteps, Mrs. Osborne enrolled in and graduated as a teacher from Prairie View State College, but after two years of teaching elementary school in a one room school house, she desired a change. One summer, during a visit with her brother Dr. Edward Massey, a dentist in St. Louis, and while working as his dental assistant, Mrs. Osborne confided in him her desire to follow in his footsteps and also become a dentist. Offering no specifics as to why she should not become a dentist, he strongly urged that she reconsider her another perspective career choice.

Dr. Massey determined to turn his sister’s thoughts elsewhere, made a plan and set it in motion. Edward, along with interns from the hospital next door to his house, throughout the summer, would fill Mrs. Osborne’s head with stories of nursing and the new nurses’ training school at their hospital. Daily bombardments from her brother and his friends led Mrs. Osborne to agree to go and talk to the training school’s superintendent.

A few days later, in a non-committed fashion, Mrs. Osborne half-heartily met with the school’s superintendent. Following their talk, Mrs. Osborne was invited to join the other students who had entered training weeks earlier. Despite all that was said to her at that first meeting, Mrs. Osborne was not prepared to commit. Two days later, however, to everyone’s surprise, Mrs. Osborne returned to the hospital and agreed to become a student at City Hospital No. 2’s first nursing class. Initially, Mrs. Osborne was not stimulated nor was she very happy with her training. …

March 20th, 2013
Estelle Massey Osborne: fighting racial discrimination

By Lillie Howard
Estelle Massey Osborne was born in Palestine, Texas on May 3rd, 1901. Her parents guided their 11 children to be strong, independent and confident. Besides being wonderful advocates for pursuing dreams, her parents were thoughtful and protective parents, so to avoid being exposed to racism, Estelle and her sisters were not allowed to work for white employers.

Estelle attended Prairie View State College, and became a nurse. Needing more education, she enrolled in Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York City.While there she taught at the Lincoln School for Nurses in the Bronx, and became the first nursing instructor at the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. After earning her BA in 1931, Estelle became the first educational director of nursing at the Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing, which is now the Howard University College of Nursing.

In 1936, she again made history as the first African-American director of nursing at City Hospital #2 and later became the first black consultant to the National Nursing Council for War Service. After earning her master’s degree, Estelle became the first African-American member of the nursing facility at New York University in 1946. This led to a role on the board of directors of the American Nurses Assoc. and the position of Associate General Director of the National League for Nursing.

During World War II, while employed at the Nursing Council for War Service, Estelle was a part-time lecturer at New York University. In 1947, she joined the faculty on a full-time basis, teaching courses in community problems, group relations, fundamentals in nursing and other courses in the university’s Department of Nursing. Estelle proved that with the combination of higher education and the practical application of her nursing skills, she could break new barriers and create unlimited opportunities for herself and all other African-American nurses, and the effects of her actions are still serving us today. She is also credited with breaking the color bar in nursing during World War II, and contributing “substantially” to the “improved public image” and the advancement of educational and economic opportunity for Negro nurses. “…it is no exaggeration to say,” writes Edna Yost, that Negro nurses “have more opportunity today than they would have had without Estelle Massey, and so have Negro citizens throughout our population.” Estelle’s personal struggles for survival in this profession contributed substantially to improving economic and educational opportunities for Negro nurses.

To a member of a minority group, it is of supreme significance to become a “first,” and thereby open the door of opportunity to other members. Estelle opened many such doors for Negro nurses. The first scholarship award for advanced study by the Julius Rosenwald Fund to a Negro nurse went to Estelle Osborne in 1929. She was the first Negro superintendent of nurses and director of the Nursing School at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis; the first Negro nurse to receive the degree of Master of Arts with a major in nursing from Columbia University Teachers College. In 1949, when she was a member of the board of directors of the American Nurses Association, Estelle was sent to a meeting of the International Council of Nurses to be selected as an official delegate. When she was appointed consultant to the Coordinating Committee on Negro Nursing for the National Council for War Service, she became the first Negro to hold such an office on the staff of any national nursing organization.

Truthfully, there is so much more to learn about Estelle Massey Osborne but I don’t have the space to do so at this moment in time. “It takes a specific kind of person to be a nurse. It is a field that requires an elegant balance of intelligence and compassion, and the wisdom to know which is needed in each moment. Estelle Massey Osborne was dedicated to becoming the finest nurse she could possible be and was an advocate of greater opportunities for black nurses. Even then, she knew what is widely known today: higher education translates into increased opportunities.

Most of this information was found in “The Negro Heritage Library’s Profiles of Negro Womanhood” published by Educational Heritage, Inc.

Let me leave you with these words: education is the door that opens up opportunities, therefore we must make sure that our school system, Board of Education and parents are dedicated to our children no longer being allowed to be “drop-outs”. This will translate into increased and greater opportunities for them, which will only benefit our community. We must also get involved with our city government to ensure that there will be jobs for our children in their hometown once they acquire their education. This is Lillie’s Point of View!

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