Sister Dora Nginza was affectionately known as the “Mother of New Brighton” as a result of her commitment to helping the sick and downtrodden and adopting homeless children. She laid the foundation of health services in New Brighton location, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

Sister Nginza was born Dora Jacobs in Cradock, Eastern Cape on a farm called Baviaanspoort on 17 October 1891. She enrolled at the Victoria Hospital in Lovedale near Alice, Eastern Cape after completing her secondary education in 1915. Four years later she left Lovedale where she had trained under Dr Neil MacVicar. She was among the first the black women to train and qualify as a nurse at Victoria Hospital.   

Sister Nginza started working on 1 November 1919 and was the first district nurse to practice in New Brighton. She started working in a simple house that served as a makeshift hospital with only six stretchers, provided by the government.  Not only did she perform nursing duties, sister Nginza also served as the midwife, cook and cleaner. Her job included looking after the New Brighton population which numbered around 7 000 at the time.

In 1923 she married Chief Henry Nginza and in the same year was transferred to the Port Elizabeth Health Department as a senior nursing sister. When her husband died in the early1940s, a new headman had to be found. The Paramount Chief of the Ama-Rarabe, Archibald Velile Sandile, bestowed the chieftainship on her. Until her death, she remained a representative of the Eastern Cape Urban Area conferring and deliberating with males on civic matters.

As a tribute to her years of service, she was presented with a gold wristwatch by the New York Council of African Affairs in 1951 She was the first African woman to receive the award, annually allocated to people who did public work that benefited African people.

In 1954, the Mayor of Port Elizabeth, Louis Dubb, presented her with a silver tray as a token of Port Elizabeth’s appreciation for Sister Nginza’s faithful service to the residents of New Brighton.  

Sister Nginza retired in 1954 after 35 years of dedicated and devoted nursing service, leaving the New Brighton clinic with a staff of 25 registered nurses to provide community health services. After her retirement, she continued her social responsibilities in New Brighton. One of these was a request for her to organise the wedding of Prince Mxolisi Sandile, son of the Xhosa Paramount Chief to the daughter of the Pondo Paramount Chief.

Sister Nginza died in June 1966 at Livingstone Hospital after a short illness at the age of 75.  She was laid to rest next to her husband in New Brighton cemetery, until a welfare organization known as Friends of Dora Nginza raised concerns about the state of her grave in the dilapidated cemetery.

The remains of Sister Nginza and her husband Henry Nginza are interred in the grounds of the Dora Nginza Hospital in Zwide Township, Port Elizabeth.

Sister Dora Nginza also has a street and a hall in New Brighton named after her.


Email, dated 17 August 2017, to SAHO from Ms N Mapapu, Librarian, Dora Nginza Hospital Medical Library|Mapapu N. (2017). A short biography of Sister Dora Nginza of New Brighton – Available at online. Accessed on 18 August 2017

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