Ruby A.F. Woodbury Scarlett Hilton

Ruby A.F. Woodbury Scarlett Hilton
Early African American Nursing Leader

Ruby Woodbury Hilton was the Superintendent of Blue Ridge Hospital in the 1920s.

Ruby A. F. Woodbury Scarlett Hilton, R.N., had a long and distinguished career in nursing education and practice. She was born in July 1895 in Georgetown, South Carolina to Frank and Chloe Woodbury. An article in the Pittsburgh Courier (1972) reports she graduated from the Hospital and Training School in Charleston, South Carolina (now known as McClellan's Hospital). Woodbury founded and operated the first hospital in her hometown, Georgetown, South Carolina. Subsequently, she served as Director of Nurses at the Arthur B. Lee Hospital in Summerville, S.C., and according to the 1920 U.S. Census, by age 25, she was the Head Nurse at the Good Samaritan Hospital and Training School in Columbia, South Carolina.

By 1928, Woodbury was the Superintendent at Blue Ridge Hospital and Training School in Asheville. In 1930, after Blue Ridge Hospital closed at the beginning of the Great Depression, she accepted the Superintendency at L. Richardson Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina. Woodbury oversaw both the hospital and the nursing school there. She met and married a local Greensboro physician, Dr. Henry Clay Scarlett who tragically died in a car wreck in 1940. Mrs. Scarlett was instrumental in getting the hospital accredited, and in securing funds from the Rosenwald Foundation for the construction of a new Nurses Home for the nurses and student nurses working at the hospital (Elkins, 1969). Scarlett was very active in the state and national Associations of Colored Graduate Nurses, serving as the regional president for the area covering Greensboro, High Point, and Winston Salem, North Carolina from 1929 through 1937. She was elected President of the North Carolina State Association of Negro Registered Nurses in 1934 and served until she was widowed and left the state in 1941. Following her service at L. Richardson Hospital, she served as Director of Nurses at Prairie View College Hospital and Training School in Prairie View, Texas. Subsequently, she was named Dean of Women and School Nurse at Kittrell College in Kittrell, North Carolina. From there she moved to New York City and worked at the Kingsbridge Jewish Medical Center for over twenty years. After moving to New York City in the 1940s, she did academic work in methods of teaching in hospital administration and ward management at Harlem Hospital and New York University.

Woodbury-Scarlett joined the NCACGN in 1928 while she was in Asheville. By 1930 she was the President of the Greensboro chapter. In 1933 she served as the Vice President of the state wide organization was elected President the next year. Scarlett attended every convention between 1930 and 1938 and spoke at the conventions in 1930, 1935 and 1937.

While she was living in New York, she married Mr. Hilton. She was honored at a bi-racial banquet commemorating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the NCSNA in 1952. Her life’s work showed consistent attention to advancing her skills, working to improve the health of her community and advancing the nursing profession.

Articles and Publications

  • Pollitt, P. (2022). A Sourcebook of the North Carolina Association Of Colored Nurses. NC Docks permission granted by author. Available at: Article includes biographies of the first 6 association presidents (pp.40-61), as well as several newspaper clippings related to early African American RNs.




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Compiled by: 
Phoebe Pollitt