ANA Hall of Fame Inductee
Mary Lewis Wyche graduated from the diploma program at Philadelphia General Hospital in 1894 at the age of 36. It clearly was only the start of an amazing nursing career in which she focused her energies on improving professional nursing in her home state of North Carolina -- despite the cultural constraints of her time.
In education, Wyche foresaw the need to standardize nursing school educational requirements. She established three schools, one of which is still known today for the quality of its nursing program. In a time when women couldn't vote, she mobilized support for the regulation of nursing practice in the North Carolina legislature, resulting in the first practice act in the U.S. in 1903. She was appointed to the North Carolina Board of Nurse Examiners, and served as secretary-treasurer from 1903-1908.
She was a firm believer in professional nursing associations. In 1901, she mailed invitations to nurses she knew asking them to discuss forming a nursing organization. When no one came to the meeting, she sent out a second mailing describing the excitement generated at the event and extended another invitation to meet. The group of nurses who agreed to meet formed the North Carolina State Nurses in 1902, and Wyche served as its president for five years.