Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Great Black Nurses Series: Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Great Black Nurses Series: Estelle Massey Riddle Osborne

Article excerpt

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. …

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