Mabel Keaton Staupers was born in Barbados, on 27 Februar 1890, but moved to the United States at age 13. Her parents were Thomas and Pauline Doyle. She 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 as a surveyor of health needs and later as executive secretary. Shortly after her time there, she became the first ever paid executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, a position which she would hold for the next twelve years, during which time she was able to increase membership. The Association was ultimately dissolved in 1949, following the admission of Black nurses to the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Black Americans were heavily discriminated against in the early 20th century, something which also affected Mabel Keaton Staupers. There was widespread segregation, Black nurses were not permitted to join the American Nurses Association until 1948, and the National League of Nursing Education also denied access to Black nurses. Mabel Keaton Staupers spoke out against the unjust discrimation against Black nurses. Notably, she successfully campaigned against restrictions preventing Black nurses from working in the military.
Staupers also wrote a book about her commitment to ending racialised discrimination in the American nursing profession entitled No Time For Prejudice. It was published in 1961.
Mabel Keaton Staupers died in 1989 and is now remembered as one of the most important nurses in American history. Her legacy of fighting for racial equality in nursing 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.