Submitted by Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, PhD, Co-founder, Uncrowned Queens Institute:
Eva Bateman was born in Cleveland, Ohio on April 5, 1919. Her mother, Ola, named her Anna Eva Melinda Theresa to please family members but always called her Eva. Her father, Charles worked for the New York Central Railroad leading to the family moving frequently. The family lived in Youngstown, Ohio and Chicago before settling in Buffalo. Young Eva was nine and enrolled in the former Bennett Park Elementary School. She graduated from Hutchinson Central High School, the predecessor to the current Hutch Tech.
Eva Bateman Noles has the distinction of being the first black nurse to train in Buffalo. She recalled that nursing was not always a career choice open to blacks. In 1936, when she applied to the Buffalo City Hospital’s three-year diploma nursing school, blacks were not accepted. On a dare from a friend, Mrs. Noles applied and to her surprise, was accepted. It was a case, she believes, of being in the right place at the right time. But if it was a stroke of luck, which resulted in her timely application, it was hard work and a fight against racial discrimination that enabled her to succeed.
Although she was admitted to the nursing program at the hospital that later became E.J. Meyer, and today the Erie County Medical Center, she was not fully accepted in the school and encountered many subtle forms of racial prejudice. At the senior dinner dance, Mrs. Noles and her date were asked to leave by restaurant staff. The only blacks allowed at such events, it seemed, were the serving people. Mrs. Noles and her companion did not fit this category.
Prejudice did not end with her diploma from the School of Nursing. It followed her into her first years of working at her profession. As the first black staff nurse to be hired at Buffalo’s world-renowned Roswell Park Cancer Institute, however, her courage and determination led her up the ladder to become a head nurse. Pushing a bit harder, she was named an instructor of nursing and then assistant director of nursing. During her last three years at RPMI, she became Director of Nursing. In addition to having earned the R.N. designation, she also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the State University at Buffalo and the Master of Arts degree in education.
A distinguished career in healthcare would not be the extent of Mrs. Noles’ contributions and achievements. An interest in African American history resulted in the research, writing and publication of several books and a traveling exhibit featuring African Americans from Buffalo. In later years, she authored Black History: A Different Approach – A Compilation (Buffalo, NY Noles Publishing, 1988); Buffalo’s Blacks: Talking Proud (Buffalo, NY Noles Publishing, 1986); and Six Decades of Nursing at Roswell Park, 1914-1974 (Buffalo, Roswell Park, 1975).
For more information on the life and history of Eva Bateman Noles visit the University at Buffalo Archives for an oral history interview (click here): and the Uncrowned Community Builders at www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com.
Photo: Eva at Roswell Park Institute Breakfast, an annual event to raise funds for a scholarship started in her honor by RPI. She stands with her son, Tyrone.
The Friends of the Buffalo Story is involved in a yearlong project whose mission is to uncover and reveal the heritage-based stories of people who live along the Ferry Street Corridor. As part of this effort “The Friends” is working very closely with community-groups, who have been doing this work for many years. None has done this more effectively and diligently than the uncrowned queens institute for research & education on women, inc.
We are proud to be collaborating with them to bring you this ongoing feature during the month of February, which focuses on some of the “uncrowned community builders” who have done so much to strengthen the African-American community of Buffalo’s East Side.
Additional “uncrowned community builders” are as follows: