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Case 4: Jane E. Mitchell

Jane Evelyn Mitchell was as much of a pioneer as her husband, Littleton P. Mitchell. Initially told by a Delaware hospital that it would not hire black nurses and compelled to find work out of state, Jane was hired by the superintendent of the new Governor Bacon Health Center near Delaware City in 1948 and she became the first black nurse to treat both white and black patients in a Delaware hospital. In 1969, she was appointed Director of Nursing at the Delaware State Hospital, again the first black nurse to hold such a position. Jane received her BS at the University of Delaware in 1963 and an MA in psychology from Washington College in 1976.

Although she retired from the State Hospital in 1979, Jane remained highly active in the nursing profession and other forms of community advocacy. Jane was the first black nurse to serve on the Delaware State Board of Nursing. In addition to being a University of Delaware alumna, she briefly worked as a minority recruiter for the College of Nursing and served as both a member of the College's Visiting Board and the HEALTH Center Advisory Board. The University honored her with a Medal of Merit in 1980 and induction into the Alumni Wall of Fame in 1998. Other substantial volunteer commitments included the American Cancer Society, Meals on Wheels, the Alliance of Professionals for the Homeless Medical Clinic, the Free Medical Clinic for the Homeless, and the NAACP. Jane's many awards are too numerous to list individually, but come from both her professional nursing work and her efforts on behalf of women, African Americans, and the arts. An especially significant honor was bestowed upon her in 1998 when the Delaware Psychiatric Center named its new facility the Jane E. Mitchell Building.

One of Jane Mitchell's great passions was art. She was a student of the notable Delaware painter, Edward L. Loper, Sr., for many years. In one of the selected items in this exhibit, Jane is pictured with both Loper and his son, Edward L. Loper, Jr., also a respected artist, at the opening of Loper, Sr.'s, 1996 retrospective exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum. Jane also spent four years studying art at the Barnes Institute and displayed her paintings in numerous local shows.

Selected items on display:

  1. Howard High School diploma, 1938.
  2. Photographs of Jane as a young nurse, circa 1940s-1950s.
  3. Article from the Morning News, "Once Denied Job, Negro Nurse Gets Director's Post," March 7, 1969.
  4. Tribute to Jane from her colleagues upon retirement from the Delaware State Hospital, 1979.
  5. Letter from a former employee at the Delaware State Hospital thanking Jane for being a positive influence on her own career in nursing, 1988.
  6. Jane's appointment to the Delaware Board of Nursing in 1978, signed by Gov. Pierre S. du Pont.
  7. Tribute to Jane from Governor Ruth Ann Minner, 2004.
  8. Photograph of Jane and Lit Mitchell at the Jane E. Mitchell Building of the Delaware Psychiatric Center, 1998.
  9. William P. Frank Hero Award, 2000. "Bill" Frank was a reporter, editor, and columnist at Delaware's News Journal for over 60 years. He wrote many articles praising the accomplishment of both Lit and Jane Mitchell during his career.
  10. Photographs of Jane painting, circa 1990s.

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