Baltimore, Md. – Esther E. McCready, DIN '53, the first African-American to gain admittance to the University of Maryland School of Nursing, will be inducted into the 2004 Maryland Women's Hall of Fame at a special ceremony on March 23 in Annapolis. Four other Maryland women will also be honored. Established in 1985 by the Maryland Commission for Women and the Women Legislators of Maryland, the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame honors Maryland women who have made unique and lasting contributions to the economic, political, cultural and social life of the state and provide visible models of achievement for tomorrow's female leaders.
A Baltimore native, McCready was admitted to the School of Nursing in 1950 at a time when the School did not admit African-Americans. But her admission did not come easy. Upon initial denial for entry to the School, and with the help of her attorney Thurgood Marshall, who had already gained prominence for his work with the NAACP, McCready sued for admission to Maryland's school. On April 14, 1950, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in her favor and she won the right to attend the University of Maryland School of Nursing.
This ruling only marked the beginning of McCready's struggle for justice and equality. During her years at the School, she faced students who were hostile to her, professors who ignored her and supervisors who attempted to sabotage her work. Yet, through it all, she maintained a quiet dignity and determination that could not be defeated. Upon graduation in 1953, she passed the State Nursing Boards on her first attempt and began a career that included nursing, teaching and public speaking. She worked for several hospitals, health centers and universities in both Baltimore and New York.
A trained opera singer who holds a master's degree in music, McCready traveled as part of the chorus with opera singers. She sang in the chorus for the Metropolitan Opera's production of Porgy and Bess and toured with opera singer Grace Bumbry. She also taught Raven Symone, the child-actress who played Olivia on The Cosby Show.
Described as "eloquent," "feisty," "pioneer," "hero" and "brave," McCready's courage and determination helped opened the doors for generations of African-American nursing students, for whom she has served as a mentor and role model. Today, the School of Nursing boasts a minority enrollment of over one-third, the largest component being African-American.
"While Esther McCready doesn't think of herself as a pioneer, but just as someone who had the inner strength to do what she had to do, her legacy and impact leave little doubt that a pioneer is precisely what she is," says Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, CS, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing. "We are honored to count her among our cadre of distinguished alumni, and we congratulate her for this extraordinary achievement."