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Lena Lowe Jordan was an African-American registered nurse and hospital administrator who managed two institutions for African Americans—a hospital for the care of crippled children, which later became a general hospital. In addition, she began a unique training program for young black women who wanted to become practical nurses.
Lena Lowe was born on April 6, 1884, in Georgia, to Hollin and Martha Lowe. She spent her childhood in Georgia and then trained as a nurse at the Charity Hospital of Savannah.
She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Cordele, Georgia, in the 1920s and began her career as a registered nurse in Arkansas as head nurse at the Mosaic State Templars Hospital in 1927. In 1920, she became the second wife of Peach Jordan, and the couple had one daughter. Jordan’s husband was an official of the Mosaic Templars fraternal organization, which was founded in Little Rock.
In the 1930s, Jordan was affiliated with the Arkansas Home and Hospital for Crippled Negro Children in Little Rock. She placed an article in the Arkansas Gazette in 1936 pleading for funds to pay a mortgage to save the institution, explaining that it was the only charity hospital for black crippled children in the state. She placed a mortgage on her own home to obtain funds to operate the hospital. The date the institution became a general hospital for blacks is unclear, but it was named the Lena Jordan Hospital by 1938. The Little Rock City Directory of that year lists the hospital at 1500 Pulaski. However, in 1943, the address was 16th and Chester, where the hospital remained until 1953.
The Lena Jordan Hospital was a twenty-bed hospital equipped for general surgery, medical, and obstetric care. It was open to all black patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Jordan’s philosophy was “The Lord Provides.” The physicians who served on the staff, both black and white, did so without pay for charity patients.
Jordan began an innovative program of training nurses for the hospital. She provided an opportunity for young women to work at the hospital and obtain a practical nurse’s certificate for their work. She provided room and board, clothes, and a small salary. Some of the women went on to business school or college after this training. She also cooperated with the Red Cross in providing a Home Nursing class in 1934. Jordan was the instructor, and ninety-one black women earned certificates. A graduation ceremony was held at the First Baptist Church at 7th and Gaines streets in Little Rock.
On May 12, 1950, a special program was held at the hospital on National Hospital Day honoring Jordan on the fortieth anniversary of her nursing career. The event coincided with the twenty-first anniversary of the institution. Jordan spent thirty years of her career in Little Rock, providing care for the underserved black community.
Jordan died on September 30, 1950, of a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried at the Haven of Rest cemetery in Little Rock.
For additional information:“For the Crippled Negro Children of Arkansas.” Arkansas Gazette. August 6, 1936, p.4.
“Lena L. Jordan, Founder of Hospital, Dies.” Arkansas Gazette. October 1, 1950.
Lennie Beauchamp Papers. Historical Research Center. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Nurse Who Helps Others Help Selves to be Honored.” Arkansas Gazette. April 26, 1950, p. 14.
Edwina Walls MannLittle Rock, Arkansas
This entry, originally published in Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives, appears in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture in an altered form. Arkansas Biography is available from the University of Arkansas Press.
Last Updated 3/12/2007
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