Mabel Keaton Staupers was born in Barbados, on 27 February 1890, and moved to the United States when she was 13 years old. Her parents were Thomas and Pauline Doyle. She later studied nursing at Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, DC, ultimately graduating with honours in 1917. Following her studies, she began working as a private duty nurse.
Mabel Keaton Staupers held many important positions during her lifetime. She worked for the Harlem Tuberculosis Committee from 1922–1934; initially she worked as a surveyor of health needs, later also becoming executive secretary. Shortly after her time there, she began working for the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses as their first ever paid executive secretary, a position which she would hold for the next twelve years, during which time she was able to increase membership. The association was ultimately disbanded in 1949, following the admission of Black nurses to the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Black Americans were heavily discriminated against at this time, something which also affected Mabel Keaton Staupers. There was widespread segregation, and Black nurses were not given full access to either the American Nurses Association (until 1948), or to the National League of Nursing Education. Mabel Keaton Staupers spoke out against the unjust discrimination against Black nurses. Notably, during her time at the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, she successfully campaigned against restrictions preventing Black nurses from working in the military.
Mabel Keaton Staupers also wrote a book about her commitment to ending racialised discrimination in the American nursing profession entitled No Time For Prejudice.
Mabel Keaton Staupers died in 1989 and is now remembered as one of the most important nurses in American history. Her nursing legacy, and role in fighting for racial equality, has been honoured by many, and she was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1996 in recognition of her significant contributions to the nursing profession.