“Hazel Johnson’s accomplishments were diverse and noteworthy.”
~ Mary T. Sarnecky, author, Army Women’s Foundation
On October 10, 1927 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, a baby girl was born to Clarence L. and Garnett (née Henley) Johnson; they named her Hazel Winifred. As a family of farmers, she and her four brothers and two sisters assisted their parents. According to the biography of Hazel Johnson Brown by Mary T. Sarnecky at Army Women’s Foundation site, “Discipline, diligence, unity, and the pursuit of education were important household values. All family members worked their acreage while holding down other jobs in the community. Johnson, for instance, cared for her siblings and cooked, cleaned, washed, and ironed at home.”
Hazel excelled as a student at East Whiteland Elementary School. As a young girl inspired to study medicine and assist others, she set her aspirations on nursing. Upon graduating Tredyffrin-Easttown Junior Senior High School, she attempted to enter the West Chester School of Nursing and the nursing program at Chester County Hospital. However, she was excluded from admittance because of her race. A nurse, Elizabeth Fritz, who was White, had worked with the Johnson family. She was impressed with Hazel’s intelligence, commitment, warm personality and determination. Fritz aided Hazel in applying to Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, where she was readily accepted. In 1950, Hazel Johnson graduated, earning her diploma in nursing.