School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Learn About the Black Angels – Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis


Congratulations to author, Maria Smilios, whose first book, “Black Angels,” has been released to an eager audience ripe to learn the “untold story of the nurses who helped cure Tuberculosis.” I first met Maria on Twitter, before COVID derailed our lives, and learned about the fascinating stories of the “Black Angels.” Her newly published book is receiving well-deserved attention and acclaim for bringing this story to life. 

Here is a glimpse of the many reviews recommending the book, but you can find out for yourself by ordering a copy through your public library, or this Amazon link:

The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis Hardcover – by Maria Smilios

“Vivid…[An] indelible portrait of an era when this untreatable bane killed one American every 11 minutes…[The nurses’] tenacity in the face of harsh working conditions and pervasive racism is humbling and inspiring…Excellent…[A] book that deserves reading and remembering in the pandemic age.” —The New York Times Book Review

“I’ve never read anything like The Black Angels, a tale of medical horror and heroism that recalls The Hot Zone as much as it does Hidden Figures. Smilios plunges the reader into the festering tuberculosis wards of 1930s New York, where death was airborne, inevitable—until a few brave nurses changed the lives of millions. This is extraordinary nonfiction.” —Jason Fagone, author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies

“A gripping book.” —The New York Times

“Immensely rewarding…[A] confluence of histories, encompassing public health, urban development, race, class, and social upheaval…[Smilios] blends all of the threads she followed into a big blistering narrative that takes readers into the lives of an exceptional group of individuals whose personal stories are as compelling as the disease they confronted was deadly. Informative, enthralling, and sometimes appalling, this is American history at its best.” —Booklist, starred review


Here is the description of the book retrieved from the author’s website:

New York City, 1929.  A sanatorium, a deadly disease, and a dire nurse shortage. So begins the remarkable true story of the Black nurses who helped cure one of the world’s deadliest plagues: tuberculosis.

During those dark pre-antibiotic days, when tuberculosis killed 1 in 7 people, white nurses at Sea View, New York’s largest municipal hospital, began quitting. Desperate to avert a public health crisis, city officials summoned Black southern nurses, luring them with promises of good pay, a career, and an escape from the strictures of Jim Crow. But after arriving, they found themselves on an isolated hilltop in the remote borough of Staten Island, yet again confronting racism and consigned to a woefully understaffed facility, dubbed “the pest house” where “no one left alive.”

Spanning the Great Depression and moving through World War II and beyond, this story follows the intrepid young women, the “Black Angels,” who, for twenty years, risked their lives working under dreadful conditions while caring for the city’s poorest—1,800 souls languishing in wards, waiting to die or become “guinea pigs” for experimental (often deadly) drugs. Yet despite their major role in desegregating the NYC hospital system—and regardless of their vital work in helping to find the cure for tuberculosis at Sea View—these nurses were completely erased from history.

The Black Angels recovers the voices of these extraordinary women and puts them at the center of this riveting story celebrating their legacy and spirit of survival.


“Maria Smilios is the author of The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis forthcoming on September 19, 2023.

A native of New York City, Maria holds a Masters of Arts from Boston University in Religion & Literature where she was a Henry Luce Scholar and a Presidential Scholar. She also taught Essay and Research writing in the university’s writing program.

In 2007, she left Boston and moved back to New York City to teach at an all-girls high school. There she created and ran an intensive summer writing program for teens.

Maria formerly worked as a development editor in the Biomedical Sciences editing books on lung diseases, pediatric and breast cancer, neurology, and ocular diseases. It was during this time when she read a line in a book that led her to discover the story of the Black Angels.

Through writing the book, she has become in involved in advocating for affordable and accessible TB drugs in TB-heavy countries, working with and supporting organizations such as EndTB and Partners in Health.

In the past, she has written for The Guardian, American Nurse, Narratively, The Rumpus, Dame Magazine, and The Forward among others.

The Black Angels is her first book.” – retrieved from Maria Smilios

You can purchase the book through this Amazon link: The Black Angels: The Untold Story of the Nurses Who Helped Cure Tuberculosis Hardcover – by Maria Smilios


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