In Memory Of
Devoe, Edith Marie who passed away on 11/17/2000 at the age of 79
Edith Mazie DeVoe was born in Washington, D. C. to Sadie Frances (nee Dent) and Joseph Edward DeVoe.
Both of her parents were employed in government service and the family consisted of four children, Elizabeth, Edith, Joseph, and Sadie. Her brother died in 1934 and both of her sisters would become nurses. She completed her primary education attending Randall Junior High and Dunbar High Schools. DeVoe enrolled in nursing school with her sister Elizabeth at the Freedman's Hospital nursing school, graduating in 1942. She then supplemented her education with public health nursing courses in Richmond, Virginia at the St. Philip School of Nursing. A family consumer service advocate, DeVoe began her career working for the Visiting Nurse Association.
On April 18, 1945, one week after the first Black navy nurse, Phyllis Mae Daley, was assigned to active duty, DeVoe was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy Reserve. She was assigned to her first active duty on June 13, 1945 and served for two years during World War II at the Boston Navy Yard. In mid-1947, she was assigned to the Naval Mine Warfare Test Station, in Solomons, Maryland. On January 6, 1948, DeVoe was transferred to the Navy Nurse Corps and assigned to the Navy Communication Annex Dispensary in Washington, D. C., as the first black nurse in the regular navy. In March 1948, when Congress was deliberating on whether women should permanently become part of the military, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Harlem's Representative to the House argued that the Nurses' Corps should be permanent, that the military should be fully desegregated and emphasized that DeVoe was the only Black nurse serving the 19,337 Black servicemen in the navy.
In 1949, DeVoe earned the rank of Lieutenant and was assigned to the
St. Albans Naval Hospital in the Queens borough of Long Island. The
following year, she became the first Black nurse assigned to a duty
station outside the U.S. mainland, when she was sent to the Tripler
Army-Navy Hospital. Her assignment there, was to assist with the
evacuees and injured serving in the Korean War. On May 1, 1952, DeVoe
became a full Lieutenant and in August was transferred to the naval
hospital in Pasadena, California. She was in a car accident in 1955,
while serving at the Oakland Naval Hospital and on April 1, 1956, she
was placed on the temporary disabilities list. She returned to duty and
retired from military service in 1960 in Oakland, returning to
Washington, D. C. Edith DeVoe died from lung cancer on November 17,
2000. at Cherry Lane Nursing Center in Laurel, Prince George's County,
Maryland and was buried at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle,