Shirley Carter

First African American to graduate from the Worcester City Hospital School of Nursing

It was early ‘20s they had this nursing program at Georgetown University Hospital.   My father had moved to Washington D.C. and I lived with him and his fourth wife temporarily until I got my own apartment then on 2727 P Street in Georgetown.  Worked with the Georgetown University Hospital... got the heck out of Worcester.  They had this wonderful earn and learn plan where you could get your degree in nursing by going to Catholic University and then make sure your classes and your nursing assignments would blend together well.  And I got this grant at Catholic University. And the nursing arts people said, “We don’t accept colored students, you all have to go to Maryland.”  Catholic University would not accept black students in the 50s. And for me to go to Maryland and then work the job it was not possible. So my dreams were dashed.

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Dr. Shirley F.B. Carter was born on October 26, 1931 and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. Shirley discusses how she and her sister were the first African Americans to graduate from the Worcester City Hospital School of Nursing. She is a bright, lively, and well-educated woman who has an Ed.D. in Instructional Leadership. Shirley reflects upon her experiences and the sexism and racism she faced as an African American woman. Shirley worked multiple jobs for almost her entire life in order to first support her family when she was just a child, and then her children as an adult. She worked as a nurse on weekends and in the summer to supplement her income as a professor at Springfield College. Shirley explains, that if she could change one thing about how society views women it would be to increase respect and equity of women. Shirley faced many adversities, and she overcame this explaining, “…things were hard, but with God as my father, and Jesus as my brother I knew I could withstand anything.” Shirley states that when society repeatedly tells you no, you need an outlet for that anger; for her, that was religion. She acknowledges that religion is not perfect; but if you let anger build up in your mind, it will explode like a volcano. She was always passionate about medicine, and knew she wanted to be a nurse, and by having perseverance and creating allies along the way, she was able to achieve her goal.

Interview Date: 
September 21, 2017
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