Mattie Graham

This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about my grandparent’s circle of friends. All of the news items were found on Newspapers.com. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.

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Mattie Graham was my grandfather Mershell Graham’s adopted sister. He informally adopted the Graham family when he was a young man.  My mother and her sister always called Mattie and Cliff Graham, “Aunt” and “Uncle”. I never met either one of them, although we were all in Detroit.

Detroit, Mich.

“Mrs. Mattie Graham Taylor formerly of Montgomery, and a graduate nurse of the General Hospital of Kansas City, Mo. is acting as night supervisor of the Dunbar Hospital of Detroit. Mrs. Taylor is kept quiet busy while in this city and we wish for her every success.”

I shared the whole clipping from Detroit because it mentions the growing Plymouth Congregational Church and also the arrival to Mr. and Mrs. Mershell Graham of a fine baby girl – my Aunt Mary V. Graham.

I look the same now. Sister Mattie Graham was my grandfather, Mershell C. Graham’s adopted sister. When I found the photograph several years ago, I did not know who she was until I found the article above.

I wrote about Mattie Graham before, in 2011 atI Look The Same Now”.  She was a mystery at that time. I had the photograph and I had the caption on the back, below. I could not figure out who she was or where she was. A reader figured out that she had attended nursing school at The General Hospital for Negroes of Kansas City, Missouri. When I found the news item, I saw that the mystery was solved!

“Made in K.C. Mo. but just found a duplicate and had this developed – 10-10-1918. Over 1 year ago. Your sister, M.G.T (Mattie Graham Taylor). A and M College. Normal Ala.”  It all seems clearer this time around.

Mattie Graham  was born in Montgomery in 1886, the middle child of Joseph and Mary Graham. She attended two years of college and was married twice. She married Frank Taylor in 1909 in Montgomery when she was 22.  They were living together in the 1910 census. By 1916 she was in Kansas City, MO at nursing school. This marriage was officially ended by divorce in 1935, when Mattie was living in Detroit. In 1936 she married Earl Harris in Detroit. She had no children.

Mary Graham, Mattie’s mother, lived with her until her death in Detroit in 1951. Mattie died in 1973 in Detroit.I wrote about her brother, Cliff Graham this year for the letter “C”.

The speech below was given by my other grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage, Sr on the occasion of the graduation of the first class of nurses from Dunbar Hospital. Dunbar was founded by a group of 30 black doctors in 1918 because they were not allowed to treat their patients at white hospitals in Detroit without special permission, and sometimes not even then. The hospital also served as a training school for nurses. Although Mattie did not graduate from Dunbar, she did work there as a nurse and  no doubt had a hand in training them.

Dunbar hospital in the present with doctors from 1922. My grandfather, Albert B. Cleage Sr. is front row, all the way to the right. Composite photo © Kristin Cleage.

Speech to the First Nurse Graduating Class of Dunbar Hospital

By Dr, Albert B. Cleage (About 1920)

Page 1 of speech

“Dunbar Hospital is the one institution in this city that demonstrates the possibilities of racial co-operation and enterprise. It is one of the outstanding  successes of Negro effort and Negro management. Dunbar Hospital is a success and is rendering to this community a service that cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. We have come together tonight to celebrate the first commencement of its Training School. These graduates are the first fruits of this organization, and by its fruits alone shall its status in this community be determined. Therefore, the great responsibility that rests upon you at once suggests itself. From tonight the relationship that has existed between you and Dunbar Hospital for three years will be reversed. For these three years it has been concerned about what the world would think of your fitness, your efficiency, your capabilities, but from now on, the deeds you perform, the service you render, the very life you live will determine what the world shall think of Dunbar Hospital.

Page 2 of speech

“By their fruits you shall know them”. This is the inevitable law of nature, and holds good not only in vegetable life, but also in the life of men and institutions. Young ladies, let me congratulate you upon your choice of a life work.  You have demonstrated by your application and devotion that you could have made a success in any line of endeavor; but like your sister Mary of old, you have chosen that better part. You are entering upon a great service at a time when our race needs you most. You have by your own free will chosen a life of Sacrifice and Service, and in proportion as you make the almighty dollar the be all and end all of your existence, in that same proportion shall you succeed or fail. Let that same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, when he said ” came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” – You have by your own choice turned your back forever upon material wealth – Riches shall never be yours- You shall suffer hardships and your pleasure and joy shall be in the satisfaction of Service well done. You have chosen to dwell in the land of sorrow and sickness and death, and that you cannot always endure unless sustained by that same mind that was in Him, who wiped away the tears from the widow’s cheek at the gates of Nain, and stood by the tomb of Lazarus and wept.

You are now servants of the public, and believe me it is an exacting taskmaster. you cannot and must not make class distinctions – you shall serve alike the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the moral and the immoral. Ofttimes, your purest motives, and most unselfish services will be misunderstood, and you will become the subject of infamous tongues of gossiping men and women, but let not this deter you from the purposes of your high calling. Stand fast and immovable, and let that same mind be in you that was in Him who said ‘”Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Dunbar Hospital is fortunate in having you for its first graduates. You have demonstrated that you possess the true spirit of Florence Nightingale. You are pioneers, you have set a high standard of efficiency and devotion to duty for those who come after you. Dunbar shall miss you; the physicians shall miss your ever encouraging and cheering smile, and the patients shall miss your kindly, tender and sympathetic touch, but we realize that our loss is the world’s gain. We then willingly send you forth as Angels of Mercy to serve and lessen the sufferings of that greater number of our folks as they pass through the Valley and Shadow of Death.

Then if you remember nothing else I have said tonight, remember you can’t go wrong and that success and joy and peace will always be yours if you let that same mind be in you that was in Him of whom it is written. –“He went about doing good”–

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I found the information for this post on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories and Death Records. The news item was found on Newspapers.com. The photographs and  speech are from my personal collection.