Harriett G. Foster
Foster, Harriet.JPG
Harriett Foster

She was the first Black Nurse in Public Health

Mrs. Harriet G. Foster was the first Black nurse in the public health field in North Louisiana.
She died April 13, 1984. Her nursing career spanned some 33 years. Born Harriet Gordon, in Hemingway, S.A., Mrs. Foster came from a line of people, the Denials, who were descended from free Blacks - a family whose pride and independence she inherited.

Mrs. Foster attended the University of Colorado and the University of Michigan, where she studied about polio. She met and married Dr. Madison Foster while he was attending medical school. Upon coming to North Louisiana, Mrs. Foster found that Blacks could not work in the public health field and so she went to South Louisiana. She was the first Black to work as a nurse in public health in Morehouse Parish at the Bastrop Health Unit.

Mrs. Foster was forced to park her car in the rear of the health unit, because Blacks were not allowed to park in the front. she was first given an office in the local high school rather than in the health unit and when she did obtain an office it was on the end of the building. Mrs. Foster was given the worst jobs and routes at the health unit.

Mrs. Foster came to the Monroe area at a time when there were separate medical facilities for Blacks, which consisted of a building behind St. Francis, and when Blacks in the medical profession were not allowed to treat white patients. But rather than becoming bitter, Mrs. Foster “stepped past the bitterness and attempted to teach people. She stepped past racism and brought humanism to teaching people in the medical profession across the board.” For many years she taught nursing to practical nursing students at Delta Vocational School. She was a stern instructor judging students on everything from the shine on their shoes to the way they made beds - an activity that was rigidly timed. At the time of her death nearly every Black nurse’s aide in the area had been one of her students.
“She stands tall in her own right for her contribution to the Mississippi-Delta region, in training Black persons and the working-class of both Black and white.