Adah graduated from Lincoln Hospital and Home School at the age of 25 in the year 1905. She became Acting Director after she obtained her degree. Adah was an activist for equal rights and better opportunities for nurses. She was instrumental in establishing the National Association of Colours Graduate Nurse.
Williams was the first to graduate from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in Ohio. She was also the first black female educator in the history on Carlifornia higher education. She established the National Black Nurses Association in 1971 which aims to advance healthcare for African-Americans across the country.
Mrs Bongiwe Bolani, a matron who opened Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital (PMMH) in 1980. She worked as a nursing service manager during the height of political violence during apartheid. Bolani stood firm on her principles and did not allow the hospital to be used for political activities. For that she paid a dear price; her house in KwaMashu was bombed twice. “I had to implement lots of changes at the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, which was used as a political ground by different factions. I became unpopular to others. The situation was unbearable, but we had to work as a team and get the job done,” said Bolani.
Cecilia Makiwane was born in the Eastern Cape in 1880. She later attended the Lovedale Girl’s School where she obtained a teacher’s certificate. Makiwane enrolled for a nursing certificate in 1903 at the newly opened nursing training school for black nurses at Lovedale College. After passing Colonial Medical Council exams, Makiwane was registered as the first black professional nurse on 7 January 1908. She took part in the first women’s anti-pass campaign in the Free State in 1912.
Florence Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing. Born into a British upper-class family, she defied expectations and became a nurse at a time when nursing was considered second-rate occupation for uneducated and impoverished women. She established the first nursing school, Nightingale Training School for Nurses, at St Thomas’
Hospital in 1860 to transform nursing and healthcare by ensuring the workforce was highly skilled. She played a significant role during the Crimean War, nursing wounded soldiers at night while carrying a lamp, earning her the famous epithet – 'Lady with the Lamp'.
Born in 1942 in the Eastern Cape, Victoria Nonyamezelo Mxenge, matriculated at Healdtown, Fort Beaufort in the then Eastern Province. She qualified as a nurse at Victoria Hospital in 1964 and moved to Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) soon after marrying Griffiths Mxenge. She completed a midwifery course at King Edward Hospital and took up service as a community nurse in Umlazi. She studied law through UNISA and joined her husband’s legal practice upon completing her legal qualification in 1981. When her husband was murdered later that year, she continued to run their legal practice. Mxenge used her legal qualification to further her quest for social justice and an equal South Africa. She represented students against the apartheid state and intervened in cases where youth were ill-treated while imprisoned. Mxenge will also be remembered for her role as part of the defence team for the UDF and the Natal Indian Congress during the Pietermaritzburg Treason Trial at the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court.
Bhelekazi Mdlalose is a forensic nurse who has now become a contact tracer for COVID-19 in Gauteng. Part of Bhelekazi’s duties was to work with victims of GBV in Rustenburg, now she interviews patients who are confirmed to have COVID-19 and tries to find out who they were in contact with to test those individuals and curb the spread of COVID-19. When asked why she did this she said: “I first asked myself a question: Do I want to be a hero? No, but I pledged that the health of my community will be my first consideration.”
Dr Lungile Hobe-Nxumalo is a 35-year-old medical officer at a rural hospital, Mseleni Hospital, in Northern KZN. She is also the chair of the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa. Since the Covid-19 pandemic reached South Africa, Dr Hobe-Nxumalo’s duties have shifted from being a doctor and seeing patients to managing the hospital.Despite resource constraints, she has managed to modify the hospital premises to meet the demands of the new normal which include: a screening station and providing patients with hand sanitisers and facial masks.“My idea is a model that goes beyond the hospital into the community. I think Covid-19 has made us realise this can be done with proper planning, infrastructure allocation and the will to do it,” said Dr Hobe-Nxumalo.