|Anna DeCosta Banks, Charleston, S.C.|
I am celebrating Black History Month by recognizing one my Charleston heroines. At a time when nursing was a very young profession, Anna DeCosta Banks enrolled in nursing school in 1891 and worked her entire life as a nurse and teacher. She was head nurse of the hospital and training school on Cannon St. Here's to you Ms. Banks. You led the way.
Anna DeCosta Banks was born on September 2, 1869, in Charleston, South Carolina. The daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth DeCosta, Anna DeCosta was educated in the Charleston Public Schools and graduated from Virginia’s Hampton Institute in 1891. She enrolled in Hampton’s Dixie Hospital of Nursing and she was among its first graduates, later serving as head nurse at the training school. Upon returning to Charleston, she joined the staff of the Hospital and Training School for Nurses, located at 135 Cannon Street. She worked as head nurse and subsequently became Superintendent of Nurses, serving in that capacity for 32 years.
Banks once said, “I have found that when a person is sick or in need, it does not make any difference to them who you are or what. If you have come to help them, all are gladly received.” Mrs. Banks worked at the hospital and also as a visiting nurse for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. For twenty-four years she was a private nurse with the Ladies Benevolent Society in Charleston. When Mrs. Banks died in 1930, the Ladies Benevolent Society paid her this tribute: "All ages, classes, races, called her blessed."
“The colored people have long felt the need of a hospital where their sick can be properly cared for. Many of them have simply died for want of attention. The work has only been going on for one year and within that time we have paid $1,000 on the building, the whole cost being $4,000. The building has two wards, two private rooms, dormitory for the nurses, dining room and kitchen and reading room. We can accommodate fifteen patients at a time.”
- Mrs. Anna DeCosta Banks, Superintendent of Nurses for the Hospital and Training School for Nurses, to the Southern Workman, published by the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute where she received her own nursing education.