Remembering “Hidden Figures’ during Women’s History Month – Healthcare workers

By Jennett Wilson Baker
March 16, 2021

Editor’s Note: Jennett Wilson Baker, a native of Fernandina, reached out to various members of the African-American community during Women’s History Month to recognize women who were “influential figures; who lived among us.” Jeanett began to compile a list and grouped the influential women by profession.  Today, we focus on healthcare workers. These local women cared for many of our native residents,  parents, and grandparents at their birth or when ill when they worked for Humphreys Memorial Hospital,  formerly named Nassau General Hospital.  I am one of many Fernandina natives who was cared for by some of these women, and for that I am grateful.  Thank you Jennett for your contribution to our area history and the Fernandina Observer.

Humphreys Memorial Hospital Photo courtesy of the Amelia Island Museum of History.


Midwives who helped deliver babies before and even after Black women could be admitted to Humphreys Memorial Hospital
• Mrs. Allie Benton
• Mrs. Annie Simmons Coleman
• Mrs. Catherine Richo
• Ms. Gordon Humph
• Mrs. Sally Clark
• Mrs. Mable Roberts

Some of the first healthcare workers and cooks, of color, at Humphreys Memorial Hospital

• Mrs. Mary lee Williams first Black RN at Humphries Memorial Hospital

Followed by:
• Ms. Laura McCray, RN BS
• Ms. Mary L. Henderson, RN BS
• Ms. Jennett W. Baker, RN BS
• Ms. Betty Drummond Wilson – started as nursing assistant an later received her BS N
• Ms. Arridian Perry Albertie- Started as a nursing assistant an later received her BS N
• Betty Johnson Veal – started as an LPN and later became an RN

LPN’s were:

Jettie Jones LPN. The only Black male healthcare worker at Humphreys

• Mrs. Ruth Benjamin LPN
• Mrs. Dorothy Prince LPN
• Mrs. Mary Clay Brown LPN
• Mrs. Betty Hopkins LPN
• Mrs. Marian Davis

Nursing Assistant’s
• Mrs. Amanda Huggins
• Mrs. Marie Hubbard Clark
• Mrs. Daisy Prince
• Mrs. Lillian Gauthier
• Mrs. Gussie Jenkins
• Mrs. Terethal Williams
• Mrs. Edna Gates
• Mrs. Sylvia Horry
• Mrs. Vivian Hardy
• Mrs. Johnny Mae Porter,
• Mrs. Mae Bell Coston
• Mrs. Lillian McCray
• Mrs. Eartha Holzendorf
• Mrs. Kate Alberta
• Mrs. Earnestine Coakley
• Mrs. Eloise Gibbs
• Mrs. Elnora Patterson
• Mrs. Earline Johnson Robinson
• Connie Benjamin Hart
• Mrs. Mary Benjamin
• Mrs. Claudia Mae Thomas-Solomon

Cooks at Nassau General Hospital (Humphreys was called Nassau General before the name change.)

• Mrs. Lula Harvey, Head Cook of the morning shift
• Mrs. Althea Brown, Head Cook of the evening shift
• Mrs. Ira Cues
• Mrs. Rose Brown
• Mrs. Flossie Brown
• Mrs. Faye Richardson
• Mrs. Fannie Mae Riley
• Mrs. Ela mae Akins
• Mrs. Margaret Ramsey
• Mrs. Erma lee Faison
• Mrs. Elizabeth Demps

Jennett Wilson Baker, R.N. B.S.N.

Ms. Baker is a Fernandina native. She retired, in 2009, as a nurse consultant in the Division of Disease Control/Bureau of HIV/AIDS in Tallahassee, Fl. Her health administrative position involved statewide Quality Improvement (QI) for HIV/AIDS clinical sites, protocol development, and technical assistance to HIV medical providers across the state.

As an international volunteer with Global Medic Force, and working with the Clinton Foundation, Ms. Baker has helped to successfully organize and implement HIV/AIDS antiretroviral medication adherence and prevention programs in Cambodia, Lesotho Southern Africa, Suriname South America, Nigeria West Africa, where she taught at the University of Calaber Teaching Hospital, and Johannesburg, and Cape Town South Africa.

Ms. Baker retired, in 2006 as a Major, from the United States Army Reserves. During her time in the military, she served in Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Peru.

She is currently the executive officer of a community based organization, the Coalition for the Reduction/Elimination of Ethnic Disparities in Health, (CREED). The mission of this organization is to educate the community concerning chronic and infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, their signs and symptoms, and the importance of testing and early access to care. We also feel that there is a direct correlation between those who drop out of school and lifestyle choices. Therefore, we are dedicated to offering programs that encourage our youth to complete high school, and reach their maximum potential.

Her philosophy is: It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”

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