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Newsletter 2022:03

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022 is International Nurses Day

Congratulations to all Nurses on May 12, our hero’s birthday!

Herewith a Washington Post story for which I was interviewed. Please pass on information of events you know about for the next newsletter.

Florence Nightingale to revolutionize nursing

by Jess McHugh, Washington Post, May 8 2022

When Florence Nightingale arrived at the Scutari military hospital in Turkey in 1854, conditions there were almost as bad as on the battlefield. As Britain and its allies pushed back against Russian expansionism in the Crimean War — not far from recent fighting in today’s Russian invasion of Ukraine — the death rate for British soldiers soared, though many more were dying of preventable diseases than battle wounds.

The young English nurse saw soldiers festering in filth, many of them lying on the bare floor among the rats. Dirty bandages covered rotting wounds, and the neglected soldiers had to contend with lice, fleas and the stench of disease in the unventilated ward. There was about one bathtub per 150 soldiers, though that hardly helped: A dead horse had been left to rot in the water supply.

Nightingale and her team of 38 women immediately went to work on issues that others — including many of the doctors — saw as unimportant, such as sanitation and food quality. Instead of waiting for the 2,000-mile supply chain from England to deliver important goods, Nightingale went out into Constantinople — today’s Istanbul — and purchased soap, towels, clean linens and fresh food from local markets. She and her team quickly set to work disinfecting the hospital. Nightingale essentially became a hospital administrator, taking charge of procurement, hygiene and nutrition. Death rates declined, and Nightingale was hailed as an “angel.”

The “lady with the lamp” — as she was soon known for tending to patients at all hours of the night — would become the mother of modern nursing and one of the most admired women of her era. Yet even she was not exempt from the disregard and resistance toward nurses among the male professions of the military and medicine.

Her tendency to circumvent existing power structures irked more than one higher-up. “There is not an official who would not burn me like Joan of Arc if he could, but they know that the War Office cannot turn me out because the country is with me,” she wrote during the war. She would win over many detractors who soon witnessed her ability to get things done, whether it was securing fresh produce or obtaining basic supplies from Queen Victoria herself.

After observing the administrative failures at Scutari, Nightingale would dedicate her life to ensuring that what she witnessed during the war would not happen again, arguing that hygienic patient care was a necessity and not a luxury. She was a dedicated public reformer who spent much of her life advocating to make nursing a profession that would demand respect from both doctors and the public, and she would establish the first professional nursing school.

As we celebrate National Nurses Week, which began Friday and ends on the 202nd anniversary of Nightingale’s birth on Thursday (marked as International Nurses Day), many countries — including the United States — are facing a crisis in nursing. Much like Nightingale in the Crimean War, nurses are often forced to bear the brunt of structural failures over which they have little control. They are undervalued and overworked. The “Great Resignation” has hit the nursing field particularly hard, and nearly 200,000 nursing jobs are expected to go unfilled through 2030. A recent survey found that more than one-third of nurses plan to leave their jobs by the end of the year, and nearly half of them cited burnout as the reason.

The Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated existing problems, particularly in hospitals, where the brunt of care often falls to nurses who are asked to work long hours for pay they consider insufficient. In demanding safety and dignity in their working conditions, nurses today are carrying on the mission begun by Nightingale: seeking to ensure that they are treated as professionals — not sacrificed as martyrs.

After more than a year and a half in Constantinople — across the Black Sea from the fighting in Crimea — Nightingale returned to Britain, but her work continued. Schooled in math from a young age, she had a passion for statistics and wanted not only to understand what had led to so many deaths at Scutari but to present that information to the public in a way that was easy to grasp. The highly visual charts she would publish were revolutionary for their era. Instead of reciting dry scientific statistics, she used a color-coded rose diagram to illustrate how deaths from preventable infectious diseases far outnumbered battlefield casualties in Crimea.

Many now hail Nightingale as a pioneer in data visualization, and she became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society, but her interest was rooted not simply in an intellectual pursuit. She wanted to use data in her quest for health reform. In a way that is strikingly modern, Nightingale believed patient care to be a social and political issue, understanding that high mortality and low income are closely tied (a phenomenon that persists today: Poor Americans died of covid-19 at much higher rates than their wealthy counterparts). As Nightingale once wrote in a letter, “Whenever I am infuriated, I revenge myself with a new diagram.”

In 1860, she founded the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, which experts consider the first secular nursing school. (Nightingale had cobbled together her own education at several hospitals as a young woman.) “There was no training before,” said Lynn McDonald, a Nightingale scholar and professor emerita at the University of Guelph in Canada. “People who were called nurses before were just hospital employees who usually didn’t know very much and really did more of a cleaning job than anything else.”

Thanks to Nightingale, nurses undertook what we understand as patient care, something she had first outlined in her 1859 book “Notes on Nursing.” In it, she wrote: “I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices. It ought to signify the proper fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet, and the proper selection and administration of diet.”

Her school’s one-year program delivered the first formal training in modern nursing, teaching elementary science and medicine. Nursing had often been reserved for working-class women, but by elevating this work to a profession, Nightingale helped make it more acceptable for women from a range of backgrounds to become nurses.

Nightingale’s vision of nursing would soon migrate across the Atlantic to the United States, thanks in part to wide publication of her writings. The Union Army even consulted Nightingale on how to manage field hospitals during the Civil War. By 1873, little more than a decade after Nightingale opened her school in London, Bellevue Hospital in New York City had started one of the first U.S. nursing programs, basing its curriculum on Nightingale’s principles.

In the intervening century and a half, medical science has grown by leaps and bounds. (Germ theory was not yet popularized when Nightingale founded her school.) Nurses today go through several years of advanced education, and many nurse practitioners have responsibilities similar to those of doctors.

While training for nurses has vastly improved, the way they’re treated has not always reflected those changes. That’s why so many in 2022 are turning to other fields entirely. “Nurses nowadays are still underpaid and still don’t get the respect,” McDonald said. “Those problems remain. They’ve obviously diminished greatly since [Nightingale’s] time, but they’re still there.”

Newsletter 2022:02

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | March 1, 2022

New 90-minute feature film, in French: “Florence Nightingale: la première des infirmières” (Florence Nightingale, First of the Nurses)

A new film, by Aurine Crémieux, was broadcast in late February on the Arte channel, which I (and others in Canada and probably in the United States) cannot see. Thanks to Nightingale Society member Rob van der Peet, in the Netherlands, who did see it, for alerting us. An English version is in preparation.

The German version is “Florence Nightingale: Mutter aller Schwestern” (Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nurses).

Filming was done in the U.K. and France in the summer and fall of 2021 (I did an interview for it in September, at the offices of the Royal Statistical Society).

Florence Nightingale Lecture at Oxford University, 4 March 2022

One of the great highlights of the Nightingale-and-things-statistical year is the public lecture held by the Department of Statistics at Oxford University and available by zoom. This year’s lecturer is Sir Bernard Silverman, FRS, professor emeritus of statistics at Oxford. His topic: “Statistics and the fight against modern slavery.” As is typical, the lecture is not on Nightingale, but in fact is on a subject—slavery—on which she was greatly concerned (her MP grandfather had worked with William Wilberforce on the abolition of slavery). The lecturer is evidently planning to do what she did so well: use statistics to elucidate a great problem and the best means to deal with it.

The lecture is at 3 p.m., U.K. time, followed by a panel session with experts on modern slavery. It is necessary to register. Florence Nightingale Lecture and Panel Session – Friday 4th March 2022 | Department of Statistics, University of Oxford

University of Virginia School of Nursing Online Event, 19 March 2022

The 5th Agnes Dillon Randolph International Nursing History Conference, with keynote address by historian Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD: “Black Patients as Healers and the Double Bind in Medical Racism.” Registration is free and open to all.

Newsletter 2022:01

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | February 3, 2022

More Seacole misinformation—a new low! Seacole founded nurse training!

A British nurse, trained at Guy’s Hospital, emailed me with the following:

“I have just read Seacole’s autobiography and am astounded how her status is considered equal to Florence Nightingale. I was prompted to read this when recently my 14 year old grandson said ‘Oh Mary Seacole …she is the British nurse who started teaching Nursing in England’ …He had not heard of Florence!! So I am prompted to investigate further. Your attempts to write the wrongs are to be applauded.”

Letter to the chief nurse, Guy’s Hospital

The following letter, co-signed by 19 people, has been sent to Avey Bhatia, chief nurse at Guy’s Hospital

2 February 2022

Dear Ms Bhatia

Re: Should NHS hospitals hand out false information, pandemic or not?

We believe that NHS hospitals, and indeed everybody in health care and elsewhere, should be responsible and accurate in their claims, pandemic or not.

Guy’s Hospital currently has a fine picture of Mary Seacole on display—nothing wrong with the picture, but Mary Seacole had nothing to do with Guy’s Hospital, or any other hospital in any country. And why a “Seacole House” there?

Mrs Seacole was a celebrity, a successful businesswoman (most of the time), an adventurous traveller, author of an engaging travel memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands 1857. If you read it, you will see that she was not a nurse, nor ever claimed to be. She called herself “doctress,” meaning herbalist, but admitted adding toxic metals to her “remedies,” lead and mercury. She admitted “lamentable blunders,” which would certainly apply to her practice of de-hydrating bowel patients. She was a generous volunteer and a fine person, so much so that, when her business in the Crimean War failed, officers, her customers, rallied around to raise money for her to retire and live well. She, with a business partner, ran a for-profit restaurant/bar/catering service for officers, not quite a hospital for ordinary soldiers.

The massive statue of her at St Thomas’ Hospital calls her “Crimean War nurse,” which she was not. Now Guy’s, in the same NHS Foundation Trust as St Thomas’, follows in the mis-representation. For accurate information on Seacole, based on the use of primary sources, see Mary Seacole Information – Introduction .

The NHS itself and its hospitals correctly want to celebrate diversity and inclusion, but this should be done with honesty. The choice of a celebrated non-nurse has as a consequence neglect of genuine black and other minority nursing leaders. The favourite of the Nightingale Society is the Nigerian Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse in the NHS, on its opening in July 1948. Unlike Mrs Seacole, Mrs Pratt was a trained nurse (at the Nightingale School),who then took extra certificates and worked as a midwife as well. There is a full biography of her by another noted Nigerian nurse, Justus Akinsanya, An African “Florence Nightingale”: A Biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt. For a short bio, see Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria — The Nightingale Society .

Mrs Pratt is especially good as a role model as nurses become nurse practitioners and work in policy and administration. She led the way for Nigerian nurses to take over the top jobs in nursing in Nigeria (previously held by white, British ex-patriate women). Pratt went on to become the first nurse anywhere to become minister of health for her country or state—in Lagos State 1973-75. We encourage you to promote her as a worthy role model.

Question: Nightingale Society Meeting by Zoom?

The Nightingale Society has normally met yearly, in person, a practice stopped with the pandemic. How about a virtual meeting? We have not made a dent on the Conservative government, or its health minister or NHS under him. What if there is a change in government at the next election? What connections do we have with Labour? And how can we develop them?

Nightingale Society-North America

The group met again, by zoom, on 2 February, with a new member from Michigan, a practising nurse with a new PhD. Welcome! She joins members from Toronto, Ottawa, Dayton and Maryland. One vexatious item of business was the continued showing of a large picture of Mary Seacole, with false information on her, at two downtown Toronto hospitals, despite the undertaking given by the chief nurse to have them removed by the end of November.

The group is still looking to an in-person gathering, in Dayton, Ohio, this year, postponed on account of the pandemic.

Any people on the (regular) Nightingale Society list who lives in the U.S. or Canada who would like to join in these (occasional, smaller) meetings, please email: say

Newsletter 2021:09

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | December 4, 2021

Success in Countering Creeping Seacolism in Toronto!

Congratulations to the Nightingale Society, North America, for persuading the top officials, notably the chief nurse, Joy Richards, to take down two large pictures in their lobbies, of the two (supposed) co-fo​unders of nursing, one you-know-who and the other Mrs Seacole, with a fallacious list of her (supposed) nursing accomplishments. The pair of pictures appeared at three major, downtown Toronto hospitals. (Our spy, a patient, says they are not down yet, but we expect that to happen soon.)

Letters sometimes work! Especially if members send more than one.

Congratulations to…

Paul Crawford, Anna Greenwood, Richard Bates, and Jonathan Memel, whose Florence Nightingale at Home, 2020, has been nominated for an award. People can vote for it at (some already have) NOW:

Nightingale Society, North America

The group (Toronto, Ohio and Maryland) met by Zoom on 30 November, chaired by Anne Clark and organized by Carolyn Edgar. Carolyn reports that the focus has shifted from “Celebrating Nightingale’s Bicentenary” to defending her and correcting any false statements. It was agreed that, when Nightingale has come under attack, we respond with letter writing saying where they got it wrong.

We would be happy to add new members (occasional zoom meetings now, we hope to meet again in person in 2021). If you are in Canada or the United States and would like to join, or try us! Email

Boston Conference

Many people took part in the zoom symposium “Nightingale 2020” held (from) Boston University School of Public Health, 8 October. There were excellent presentations (especially Dave Green, my spies tell me).

Unfortunately, speaker Mary Ellen Doona reiterated incorrect claims she had previously published on Nightingale and the Irish Sisters of Mercy. For a critique, with primary sources, see my (Lynn McDonald’s), “Florence Nightingale and Irish nursing” article for the Journal of Clinical Nursing, available online 5 April 2014.

As well, Doona failed to mention that Mother Bridgeman, superior of the Irish Sisters of Mercy, signed a contract on behalf of her nurses to work under Nightingale, a condition to their being accepted on the (second) nursing team sent out. On arrival (and Nightingale knew nothing of it and was not asked), the doctors objected for not only was the Barrack Hospital overcrowded, the large number of nuns upset the religious balance. They, not Nightingale, required that the new arrivals be sent elsewhere. They were, to Koulali, and then sent to the Crimea itself. When Nightingale was put in charge of the Crimea hospital nursing, Bridgeman took her nuns and quit, without advising her! (Nightingale had to scramble to find replacements.)

As to Doona’s accusation of Nightingale having “anti-Catholic” sentiments, she worked very amicably with the nuns of the same order at the Convent of Mercy, Bermondsey, and remained friends with its mother superior, Mary Clare Moore, and other nuns for life.

Correspondence about Nightingale and the End of the Crimean War

Thanks to Peter Kay for sharing an interesting letter he has acquired and has displayed, from General George Codrington to his Russian counterpart, about the placing of a white cross at a cemetery.

“Vital Power,” Anyone?

Rob Van der Peet, a Dutch retired nurse working on a new translation of Notes on Nursing, invites discussion on Nightingale’s interest in “vital power.” You can email him at

Newsletter 2021:08

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | November 4, 2021

My visit to the UK, September-October 2021

It was not possible to hold a Nightingale Society meeting while I was in the U.K., but I did manage to see a number of people informally:

  • Dave Green, director of the Nightingale Museum
  • Alison Macfarlane, statistician (we went to the National Archives at Kew together, on an unsuccessful attempt to find some (missing) Crimean War data)
  • Dr Eileen Magnello, historian of statistics
  • And see the item below: Romsey Abbey

New letter to co-sign:

“This is a new opening for us—might a new CEO be more open than the previous? ”
–Amanda Pritchard, CEO
National Health Service

Dear Ms Pritchard

First of all, congratulations to you on your appointment as CEO of the National Health Service and all the best in such a challenging post.

We in the Nightingale Society continue to be concerned about misinformation put out about Nightingale, yes, by the NHS. We understand and agree with the NHS’s goal of celebrating black and ethnic minority role models. But we see no point and some harm in the continued promotion of a Jamaican Creole businesswoman, Mary Seacole, commendable as she was as an adventurous traveller, memoirist and generous volunteer, but not remotely a founder of the nursing profession.

The pairing of the two, Nightingale and Seacole, even appeared in the Queen’s Christmas message of 2020. Was that her idea? Or did the NHS give her the words? (this was before your appointment as CEO).

It got worse with the statement of the Prince of Wales on International Nurses Day, 12 May 2021 (again, before your appointment), when he credited Seacole, along with Nightingale, with saving lives by sanitary reform during the Crimean War! Not even Nightingale deserves that credit, although she did assist, especially by installing laundries and purchasing new bedding and clothes for the vermin-infested soldiers who arrived at her hospital. Mrs Seacole was not even in the country when the clean-up occurred! Nor did she mention, in her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, the Sanitary Commission, which actually did the work that saved lives. Again, we wonder, did the Prince of Wales make this up himself, or was he given the words?

A letter to the prince asking at what hospitals Seacole ever nursed, what nurses she ever trained or mentored, and what books or articles she ever wrote on nursing received no reply.

Not the least ill consequence of getting this history wrong is that the NHS fails to recognize real, black and minority ethnic nursing leaders. We propose as the leading contender Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92), the first black nurse in the NHS in 1948, after being the first black nurse at the Nightingale School, then at St Thomas’ Hospital, in 1946. Mrs Pratt went on to become the first black matron of University College Hospital, Ibadan, the first black chief nurse of Nigeria (posts previously reserved for white, ex-patriate British women, when Nigerians were kept in the menial positions). Pratt went past Nightingale in her final appointment, in effect as Minister of Health for Lagos State (the title was “Commissioner for Health,” one of five Cabinet posts), 1975-77. Herewith a link on her, and a PDF biography is available on the Nightingale Society website: Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria — The Nightingale Society

We urge you to get the history right: Nightingale was the major founder of professional nursing. Many people deserve credit for the pioneering roles they played in the process, short of founder status. Black and ethnic minority nurses should be celebrated for what they did (they don’t need false praise or fake facts!).


Romsey Abbey: the Calling Window

John Shallcross kindly met me at the train and took me to see the Sophie Hacker’s wonderful “Calling Window” at the Abbey. It is stunning, and, no surprise, some visitors are going to the Abbey just to see it. Sophie gave a talk on it at the Abbey on 22 October, which I missed.

St Paul’s Cathedral evensong, 10 November 2021 in honour of Nightingale

At 5:00pm (no ticket required)

Conference on Nightingale at Boston University, 30 November 2021

Good to see some new names giving papers, along with well-known presenters, Dave Green and Barbara Dossey. (This event replaces the original.)

Newsletter 2021:07

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | September 6, 2021

Possibly meet informally in London?

I will be in London September 15 for an unknown period of time–one event has been scheduled and I hope to work at the British Library. However, with the pandemic, life is uncertain. This is not the time to hold the usual in-person meetings we have had in the past, and Zoom can be better organized from my home office in Toronto. However, it would be great to meet anyone who is, or expects to be, in London after September 15. Please contact me at if this might work.

More Propaganda: the Seacole pairing with Nightingale now a story in Toronto

In the last newsletter, a letter was reported sent to Princess Margret Hospital officials (no reply received) on the display of a Seacole picture in the lobby, with one of Nightingale (this reported by a nurse). The pairing has gone on, to the University Health Network (UHN), a major combination of downtown hospitals (this report by a patient). An online blurb sets out misinformation, more inaccurate than usual. It describes Seacole as “a British-Jamaican nurse and businessperson during the 1800s, provided sustenance and care for British soldiers at the battlefront during the Crimean War. A nursing pioneer, she opened a hospital hotel caring for those most in need. This was around the same time as Florence Nightingale, but Mary is seldom mentioned.”

Further, according to Dr Joy Richards, vice-president, patient relations, “Nursing would not be what it is today without these leaders and it’s important to open these conversations.” How about some facts in the conversations? And how does misinformation “empower” women into leadership? another purpose announced by UHN.

For the record, Mrs Seacole opened her restaurant/bar/catering service for officers in late spring, 1855—it was never a hospital and she never said it was. Nightingale arrived in November 1854, and got the nursing going and many improvements made (laundry, bedding, clean clothes) at the largest hospital in the world, the Scutari Barrack Hospital.

Question: To those of you who think that the United States and Canada are immune to these stories, take note. The next pairing of Seacole with Nightingale may come to a hospital near you.

On a lighter note

Thanks to Dr Ruth Richardson for sharing a podcast on the discovery of chloroform, which includes a short, but very positive, account of Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War.

Ropar Institute of Technology, India

Thanks to Doreen Armbruster, typesetter for the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, for donating her collection of 16 volumes to this new university. They write that they are delighted to have them on the shelf at their library.

Meeting of the North American Florence Nightingale Society

The meeting took place on 1 September by zoom. The main action from the meeting was to pursue the authorities at the Toronto downtown hospitals on the Mary Seacole propaganda picture.

Anyone in the United States or Canada who would like to link up with this network, let us know:

Newsletter 2021:06

From Lynn McDonald, project director | June 30, 2021

Nightingale and the Findings on Residential School Deaths in Canada

Everyone in Canada will be terribly aware of the tragic findings of large numbers of unmarked graves at old residential schools. Yet we should not be surprised at these sad findings. Nightingale was the first person to reveal the high rates of disease and death among aboriginal children in “colonial schools and hospitals,” in Ceylon, South Africa and Australia as well as Canada. These residential schools were British colonial policy.

Nightingale got the Colonial Office to send out questionnaires—the then colonial secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, had been the senior war minister during the Crimean War. She published the findings in 1863, that the rates of disease and death were, throughout the colonies that provided data, double those of English children of the same ages. The 13 schools in Canada were all in Ontario (some were day schools). So, we must expect deaths, even without deliberate crimes, simply from poor sanitary standards, especially over-crowding, and poor ventilation.

Nightingale’s paper on the subject, given at meetings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science got good press attention, but she could not get the Colonial Office to follow up—her contact, the Duke of Newcastle, had been switched to another department.

Congratulations to Professor Nigel Biggar, CBE

Nigel, a long-standing member of the Nightingale Society, in on the Queen’s Honour List for a CBE. Nigel tells me there is a backlog, on account of COVID-19, for giving out the awards, but they will be done in person, at a palace!

Florence Nightingale and Italy

Congratulations to Sylvestro Giananntonio on the publication of a new book, Florence Nightingale and Italy, in Italian. This was commissioned last year by the Italian nurses’ union.

Florence Nightingale: A Design Hero

R.J. Andrews’s latest on Nightingale as a data visualization pioneer.
Florence Nightingale is a Design Hero | by RJ Andrews | Nightingale | Medium

Mary Seacole propaganda in Toronto, at Princess Margaret Hospital

We were alerted to a new addition to the propaganda campaign, a large picture of Mary Seacole with one of Nightingale in the main lobby of this hospital, the specialist hospital for cancer. Three Toronto members of the Nightingale Society wrote the CEO, copied to the president and vice-president of the Ontario Hospital Association. Herewith:

Michael Burns, president and CEO
Princess Margaret Hospital
30 May 2021

Dear Mr Burns

Re: Mary Seacole picture/propaganda

It has been brought to our attention (we were sent a picture of the pictures) that the main lobby of Princess Margaret Hospital has pictures of Florence Nightingale, the major founder of nursing in the world ,of particular importance for the founding of professional nursing in Canada ,and one of Mary Seacole, a noted celebrity in the Crimean War, as the proprietress of a restaurant/bar/catering service for officers. Mrs Seacole has been actively promoted by the U.K.’s National Health Service as a role model for black and minority ethnic nurses—the NHS is the largest employer of blacks in the U.K. However, there is no foundation for her portrayal as a nurse, and she never claimed to be one. She published a very readable memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857. If you read it, you will find much to admire, but nothing on the nursing profession.

Kindly state, if you think otherwise, (1) in what hospitals did Seacole ever nurse (2) what nurses she ever trained or mentored and (3) what books and articles she authored on nursing or health care. The list for Nightingale on all three would be substantial, but Mrs Seacole sold meals and champagne to officers; she generously visited the hospital near her business, where she distributed donated magazines to sick railway workers. No doubt she gave comfort to many, as did the mince pies she gave them on January 1 1856, but this is not professional nursing. For more on Seacole, see introduction at

Sadly, fake facts get around. We trust you will not excuse the picture on the grounds that the hospital would not misinform the public on clinical matters, but false history is acceptable, if for a worthy goal. The promotion of role models for black and ethnic minority nurses and health care workers is a good idea, but choices must be made with due diligence as to the facts. The hospital should not be a purveyor of propaganda, and thus you should immediately remove the inappropriate picture.

If you want to recognize a black/ethnic minority nursing leader, an excellent choice would be Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse in the U.K.’s National Health Service, who went on to become the major founder of nursing in Nigeria and did much to promote professional nursing internationally. On her see: Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria, 2021: The Nightingale Society.

London open again

We are pleased to see that the Florence Nightingale Museum has re-opened. Also, Nightingale walking tours of London are back on.

Zoom event “Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War Revisited”

Richard Bates invites anyone to join in an event, co-sponsored with the British Library, Monday July 5 2021, 5:30-7 p.m. (UK time), with excellent speakers! Register with Eventbrite:

Did you know?

That there is a Nanjing Nightingale College of Nursing? The Nightingale Fellowship (the organization of former “Nightingale nurses”) presented the college with a Nightingale badge for display in a central meeting place. Good to hear!

Nightingale Fellowship Chapel Service

Herewith a link to the chapel service for Nightingale, as a virtual event:

Newsletter 2021:05

From Lynn McDonald, project director | May 15, 2021

Nightingale’s Birthday, but with more setbacks, from on high (see good news later)

The letter below to the Prince of Wales is self-explanatory. Thanks to Ian Whitehouse and Mark Bostridge for alerting me to the stories in the newspapers. Please reply ‘Co-sign’ if you wish to add your name to the list.

HRH the Prince of Wales
Highgrove House, Doughton, Tetbury GL8 8TN
12 May 2021

Your Royal Highness

You were so right about climate change when so few saw the crisis, but you wrong, very wrong, in your statement in The Times making Mary Seacole a joint expert on hygiene with Florence Nightingale, so that together they saved lives in the Crimean War. No! Nor did Mrs Seacole, a fine person, successful businesswoman, generous volunteer and fine memoirist, ever claim anything of the kind. Her book, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, recounts her travels and her businesses, with several chapters (XIII to XVI) on the food and wine she served to officers during the war. In it, she even admitted to making “lamentable blunders” in her “herbal” preparations, presumably referring to her adding lead and mercury, both toxic metals, to them (Chapter IV). These act to dehydrate a person with bowel disease, when re-hydration is what is needed.

Whether you wrote the errors or they were given to you to say, they consist in “fake facts” and we wish you to know that. Sadly, HM the Queen demoted Nightingale and promoted Seacole in her Christmas message, 2020, making Nightingale a “nursing pioneer” like Seacole.

That you made these wrongful remarks at St Bartholomew’s Hospital only adds to the wrong. It was Florence Nightingale who sent the first trained matron and staff of nurses to that hospital to get professional nursing started (it was much behind St Thomas’ Hospital, where her school was located).

Nurses certainly deserve celebration for their hard and courageous work during this pandemic. But the pandemic itself reminds us of the ongoing relevance of Nightingale’s contribution. It was her pioneer statistical work, done with experts after the Crimean War that identified what reforms worked to bring down the high death rates. That is exactly what we need to know now to identify what works best in treatments for COVID-19 and what measures of prevention lead to lower rights of infection and death.

It was Nightingale who was the great advocate of hygiene (name one sentence Seacole ever wrote on the subject!). Ventilation, cleanliness, sunlight, fresh air, adequate spacing and frequent handwashing all feature in her work from her Notes on Nursing in 1860 on.

Diversity and inclusion are proper objects for the National Health Service and for you to assist by promoting them. But the NHS seems to have missed a superb black nursing leader who would be an ideal black/minority role model, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92), who went on from being the first black nurse in the NHS in 1948, to lead in establishing professional nursing in her home country, Nigeria on her return there. She trained at the Nightingale School for she was inspired by her. She in turn became the first black matron at University College Hospital, Ibadan (replacing a white British expatriate) and then on to being chief nursing officer for Nigeria, the largest country in Africa and sixth largest in the world. She then went on to another “first,” the first nurse to become a Cabinet minister in charge of health, in Lagos State, 1973-75. On that accomplishment, she passed Nightingale, who wrote and lobbied Cabinet ministers but never became one.

On Mrs Pratt, see Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria — The Nightingale Society.

Yours sincerely,

Copies to the Rt Hon Boris Johnson, prime minister; the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health; Sir Simon Stevens, CEO, the National Health Service.

Good News: Florence Nightingale Museum in London to re-open in June

And congratulations to David Green, director, on being short-listed for recognition for a Museum and Heritage award.

Westminster Abbey service on Nightingale re-scheduled for November 10 [advance notice]

“Florence Nightingale Comes Home”

Richard Bates reports that their “Florence Nightingale Comes Home” exhibition is finally reopening at Lakeside Arts next week! Good to see this, a postponed event. Tickets can be booked: here. To begin with it will be open Thursday-Sunday, and advance booking is required.

Zoom meeting of the North American Nightingale Society

Yes, we have a branch that has met in person, in Toronto, and now meets by Zoom, with members in Toronto; Ottawa; San Francisco; Dayton, Ohio; and Maryland. It met on May 11 to make plans for ongoing recognition of Nightingale. It is exploring ways to get an annual Florence Nightingale Lecture, based in North America, established.

Newsletter 2021:04

From Lynn McDonald, project director | May 9, 2021

Florence Nightingale Foundation and its “Partnership” promoting Mary Seacole

[for background, see the following link for The Nightingale Newsletter 2021:03, April 21, 2021]

Our letter went a second time to the Foundation, with more signatures, up from 31 to 42.

We have received no substantive reply to our letter, but only an email from Greta Westwood, the CEO, giving a link to the ”partnership.” Thus, no answer to what nursing Seacole ever did, and what “partnership” Nightingale and Seacole had, apart from (as we pointed out) that Nightingale gave Mrs Seacole a bed for the night when she was en route to the Crimea in 1855. Herewith:

“Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) is delighted to be partnering with the Mary Seacole Trust to deliver the hugely successful Mary Seacole Awards. Both organisations celebrate the diversity of the nursing and midwifery workforce and the communities in which they work. This partnership will further highlight the contribution of nurses and midwives from diverse backgrounds working in the NHS in England.

“COVID-19 has emphasised the continued and now urgent need to support ethnic minority communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. By joining forces, FNF and the Mary Seacole Trust will support nurse and midwife leaders to develop projects to reduce inequalities and improve health services and outcomes for such communities.

“This new partnership will celebrate the achievements of nurses and midwives who follow in the footsteps of both Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.”

Responses: Some people have emailed Greta Westwood themselves, to get a polite reply, but again no real answer on the erroneous content.

A subsequent email from Dr Westwood badly missed the point:

“As you will know the Florence Nightingale Foundation is a UK wide nursing and midwifery charity providing leadership development opportunities for over 400 nurses and midwives per year. It is not a historical society.” (email 4 May 2021).

How “not being a historical society” entitles it to invent fake facts was not explained.

Back to Nightingale: A Crimean War soldier writes her in 1887

Sometimes a letter to Nightingale tells us something about her work not in any letter of her own. Here is a fine example from 1887, written by a Crimean War soldier about her help of over 30 years earlier. British Army surgeons then did little more than amputate injured limbs; more complicated surgery to reconstruct the limb was still a long way off. The soldier was Samuel Atkins. Since he was wounded at the Battle of Inkermann, 5 November 1854, he would have been one of the first soldiers Nightingale looked after at the Scutari Barrack Hospital. His letter goes on to his religious beliefs.

Source: Woodward Biomedical Library B.64, University of British Columbia

9 March 1887


You will doubtless be surprised at receiving a letter from an old Crimean soldier after so many years have passed away, but I have always been anxious to write to you, but could not obtain your address, and have only now quite incidentally, in talking to a friend, discovered through her the address of your sister to whom I have addressed this letter for you.

I was one of the soldiers in the 33rd Duke of Wellington Regiment and was wounded at the Battle of Inkerman, in the head, muscle of right arm and down the ribs, and taken to the hospital at Scutari. After being under the doctors treatment for a time, he said that the next day he must cut my arm off, and I told you what the doctor had said and you told me that I had not better have it off as there was no danger and that they could not take it off without my permission and that my arm would look better in my sleeve. There the sleeve would tuck in my waistcoat pocket.

A few months after coming home to my native village, when out one day my arm being still crooked I stooped down, picked up a stone to throw at a bird and the sudden jerk pulled my arm straight and I was shortly after this able to take some temporary employment and have been able to follow my work ever since.

And now you will perhaps ask yourself why I have written all these particulars to you. It is that I may thank you from the very bottom of my heart for all your kindness to me and all other suffering ones while I and they were in the hospital. I often remember you in my prayers at the throne of grace for thank God since leaving the Crimea I have found grace in trusting in the precious blood of Christ.

I trust that you are in the enjoyment of good health and that the presence of the Master Christ may be always with you. And I know that you will one day hear him say (Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my children, ye have done it unto me) Well done good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Hoping that you will excuse the liberty I have taken. I remain, Madame

your obedient servant,

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria

by Lynn McDonald, April 2021

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92) was an outstanding nursing leader, well recognized for her work in her home country, Nigeria, but scarcely known in the United Kingdom, despite her significant British connections and international reputation. She was the first Black person to train at the Nightingale School, then based at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, starting in 1946. Then, when the National Health Service was launched in July, 1948, she was on duty—the first Black nurse in the NHS.

Her background and education

Née Kofoworola Abeni Scott, she was born into a privileged Lagos family, early converts to Christianity. She was given a good education in a Church Missionary Society girls’ school, after which she obtained a teaching certificate and taught History at the secondary level for five years. She wanted to become a nurse, but, like Nightingale, was prevented by her family, on account of the unseemly reputation of nurses. In the case of Nigeria, the higher posts were reserved for British expatriate women, with the menial tasks accorded to Nigerians (the practice of the Colonial Nursing Service).

In 1941, the then Miss Scott married a Nigerian pharmacist, Eugene Samuel Oluremi (Olu) Pratt, who shared her faith and strongly supported her aspiration to become a nurse. The couple were married in the Scotts’ and Pratts’ family church, the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, where Mrs Pratt was active in cathedral governance and women’s organizations.

Olu Pratt made the introduction for his wife to the matron at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1946—he had gone to London ahead of her to apply for medical studies for himself. The matron accepted her, subject to the arrival of the required documents, which proved to be in order.

St Thomas’ had been bombed in the war, so that, on Mrs Pratt’s arrival in 1946, its departments were in temporary quarters in other parts of London. She, as well as doing the regular training, getting excellent marks, went on to obtain extra certificates in midwifery (and worked as a midwife), tropical diseases, the ward sister’s course, and, on a return trip, hospital nursing administration, these last two at the Royal College of Nursing. Pratt later won grants to enable her to travel to see nurse training in other countries. In the United States, she was impressed by training based at universities. She would later lead in the introduction of university-based training in Nigeria, achieved in 1965.

Professional nursing in Nigeria

Encouraged by British “Nightingale nurses,” Pratt returned to Nigeria in 1955 to become the first Nigerian ward sister, then, successively, the first Nigerian assistant matron, deputy matron, and, in 1964, matron, at the top hospital in Nigeria, University College Hospital, Ibadan. This transition from expatriate nurses, doctors, other professionals and administrators to Nigerians was called “Nigerianization”. It began with the approach of independence, which was gained in 1960.

After a mere two years as matron at UCH, Ibadan, although enough to demonstrate her ability as an administrator. Pratt took on a greater challenge, as chief nursing officer for the Federation of Nigeria, the first Nigerian in the post. Her domain became the whole country, the largest in Africa, sixth largest in the world. She led in the establishment of other nursing schools and did some of the training herself.

Throughout, Pratt was, unusually for the time, both a wife and mother, with two sons, one born in Nigeria and one while she was training in London. Her husband obtained British medical qualifications, to return to practise in Nigeria.

From nursing to political leadership in health care

Pratt, like Nightingale, saw the importance of political action in the achievement of healthcare reform. Thus, in 1973, when she was offered the post of “Commissioner for Health”—in practice, the Minister of Health for Lagos State, then under military rule—she accepted. During her time in office (only two years) she saw to the expansion of healthcare services, the building of more hospitals, and the equipping of boats to take healthcare services to villages best accessible by water. She made the provision of better conditions for nurses a priority, culminating in the building of a fine nurses’ residence, long delayed by previous governments, dubbed the “Nurses’ Hilton.” Pratt was the first nurse to become Minister of Health for her country or state.

She received many honours, was named “chief,” awarded the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an honorary doctorate of laws and the Florence Nightingale Medal,; she was appointed a fellow both of the Royal College of Nursing and the West African College of Nursing. She died in Lagos in 1992, predeceased by her husband, Dr Olu Pratt, in 1985.

A biography of Pratt

An excellent biography was published about her, An African ‘Florence Nightingale’: a biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt. The author, Justus A. Akinsanya, was a distinguished Nigerian-born nursing academic, whose career was mainly in the U.K. Unluckily, the book soon became an “orphan book,” that is, the publisher went out of business and the author died. A PDF link is available on the website of the Nightingale Society. It is otherwise effectively unavailable.

Mrs K.A. Pratt: Role model

Mrs Pratt’s career makes her a fine role model not only for Black and minority ethnic nurses, but ALL nurses who aim high.

Nightingale Newsletter 2021:3

From Lynn McDonald, project director · April 21, 2021

Letter to the Florence Nightingale Foundation

The letter went with 31 signatures on it. No response has come back as of yet. Five more people have since asked to co-sign the letter, so a second letter will duly go with more signatures. Anyone who did not sign and now wants to, please reply with Yes or Co-sign (if in doubt as to having signed before; no worries, I will add your name only if you did not!)

Of course, the NHS, notably NHS Employers and Public Health England are promoters of the Seacole award. The Nightingale Society has contacted them a number of times in the past, to get either no response or a feeble excuse. A telling example from NHS Employers to co-founder Wendy Mathews offered that: “the resumes of many historical figures may not stand up to the rigours of 21st century thinking or practice; however, that does not prevent these stories from being an inspiration to others.” And these people themselves add to false facts!

A letter to NHS groups will be the next step. Does anyone have contacts with sympathetic MPs or, better still, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health?

Other letters/emails to the Florence Nightingale Foundation

A number of people said they had some contact with members of the board and will contact them individually to seek some resolution. We want a resolution, to move forward, so anyone with ideas on how to do this, please try and let us know.

Herewith the letter (with 31 signatures)

Dear Professor Westwood

Re: Florence Nightingale Foundation announcement on promoting Mary Seacole awards (Mary Seacole Awards to be taken over by new partnership to ‘broaden impact’ | Nursing Times)

Nightingale Society members and supporters were, at the least, puzzled to see your promotion of Mary Seacole as an apparently equal contributor to “modern nursing.” Would you please tell us what contributions to modern nursing Mrs Seacole made? We are well aware of her fine personal qualities, as a businesswoman, volunteer and generous person. She kindly distributed donated magazines to the men at the Land Transport Corps Hospital near her business, and brought them mince pies on New Year’s Day, 1856. She gave out hot tea for several weeks (while waiting for her huts to be erected) to sick and wounded soldiers waiting on the pier at Balaclava to go to Nightingale’s hospital at Scutari.

  • However, can you tell us of any hospital(s) where she nursed? in any country?
  • Which nurses she trained or mentored?
  • What articles or books she ever published on nursing?

In her very readable memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, she mentioned nothing of the sort, that is, of actual nursing. She described attending to men on the battlefield post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators, on three occasions. She also made it clear in her memoir that she missed the first battles, as she was in London attending to her failing gold investments (Chapter VIII, p 74).

Please state, further, what contribution to “modern nursing” Mrs Seacole made by her treatment of bowel patients: dehydration (vomiting, purging through the bowels and sweating) to become NHS “modern nursing” practice?

How did her “lamentable blunders” (Chapter V, 31 of her memoir) contribute to “modern nursing”?

You stated in the Nursing Times article that the “partnership” with the Seacole Trust would unite Nightingale and Seacole again, after their encounter 166 years ago. Please say how, given that the encounter consisted of Seacole asking Nightingale for a bed for the night as she was en route to the Crimea to start her business. Perhaps five minutes? with nothing on nursing (see her memoir, Chapter IX, p 91).

We appreciate the concern to bring due recognition to BAME persons in nursing, a valid goal, but should you not choose persons who made important contributions? We wonder why Kofoworola Abeni Pratt is not recognized, a Nightingale nurse, the first black nurse in the NHS and an outstanding nursing leader. No doubt there are other good BAME models as well, so why feature someone who was not?

We will be happy to post your statement on Mrs Seacole’s contributions to modern nursing.

Yours sincerely

Where to send your own emails:

Professor Greta Westwood, CBE, CEO or
Baroness Watkins, president
Lord Remnant, vice-president
Avery Bhatia, chief nurse, St Thomas’ and Guy’s NHS Foundation Trust
Andrew Andrews, legal director
David Half, treasurer
Royal patron, Princess Alexandra
Sir Robert Francis, patron
Trustees: Joan Myers, Jill McLeod Park, Colonel Sharon Findlay, Aisha Holoway, Peter Kay, Rhiannon Beaumont-Wood, Simon Reiter, Ben Edwards, Judy O’Sullivan.

Link to superb Pushkin Industries podcast by Tim Harford, “Florence Nightingale and her Geeks Wage War on Death”

Available also at NPR:

Notice of 2021 (Delayed) Bicentenary conference on Nightingale

The International & IV National Nursing History Conference will take place in İzmir from November 18th to 20th, 2021. The Conference will be held in memory of the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, who laid the foundations of modern nursing as the World Health Organization declared 2020 as the ‘Year of Nursing and Midwifery’ .We want to hold our congress this year with the same theme, which we could not hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main theme of our conference was determined as ‘Technology Keeps Live, Care Improves’. In line with this main theme, we invite all academicians, nurses and students to share the life and personal characteristics of Florence Nightingale, its contributions to the nursing profession, its philosophy, and the history of nursing care in our conference.

Nightingale Newsletter 2021:2

From Lynn McDonald, project director · April 8, 2021

Please say if you wish to co-sign this letter, to go to the CEO of the Florence Nightingale Foundation. For background, see the Nursing Times article noted. Simply reply Yes, or Co-sign.

This is a very troubling step taken by the Florence Nightingale Foundation, which was established for “the living memory” of Nightingale, now to accept and promote Mary Seacole with her, because both contributed to “modern nursing.” The statement even has a “partnership” between the two, from back in the Crimean War, or more “false news.” The Nightingale Society has long recognized the many favourable qualities and work by Seacole, but as a businesswoman and volunteer, but not as a co-founder of nursing.

To: Greta Westwood, CBE, Florence Nightingale Foundation

Dear Dr Westwood

Re: Florence Nightingale Foundation announcement on promoting Mary Seacole awards (Mary Seacole Awards to be taken over by new partnership to ‘broaden impact’ | Nursing Times)

Nightingale Society members and supporters were, at the least, puzzled to see your promotion of Mary Seacole as an apparently equal contributor to “modern nursing.” Would you please tell us what contributions to modern nursing Mrs Seacole made? We are well aware of her fine personal qualities, as a businesswoman, volunteer and generous person. She kindly distributed donated magazines to the men at the Land Transport Corps Hospital near her business, and brought them mince tarts on New Year’s Day, 1856. She gave out hot tea for several weeks (while waiting for her huts to be erected) to sick and wounded soldiers waiting on the pier at Balaclava to go to Nightingale’s hospital at Scutari.

  • However, can you tell us of any hospital(s) where she nursed? in any country?
  • Which nurses did she train or mentor?
  • What articles or books did she ever publish on nursing?

In her very readable memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, she mentioned nothing of the sort; that is, of actual nursing. She described attending to men on the battlefield post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators, on three occasions. She also made it clear in her memoir that she missed the first battles, as she was in London attending to her failing gold investments (Chapter VIII, p 74).

Please state, further, what contribution to “modern nursing” Mrs Seacole made by her treatment of bowel patients: de-hydration (vomiting, purging through the bowels and sweating) to become NHS “modern nursing” practice?

How did her “lamentable blunders” (Chapter V, 31 of her memoir) contribute to “modern nursing”?

You stated in the Nursing Times article that the “partnership” with the Seacole Trust would unite Nightingale and Seacole again, after their encounter 166 years ago. Please say how, given that the encounter consisted of Seacole asking Nightingale for a bed for the night as she was en route to the Crimea to start her business. Perhaps five minutes? with nothing on nursing (see her memoir Chapter IX, p 91).

We appreciate the concern to bring due recognition to BAME persons in nursing, a valid goal, but should you not choose persons who made important contributions? We wonder why Kofoworola Abeni Pratt is not recognized; a Nightingale nurse, the first black nurse in the NHS, and an outstanding nursing leader. No doubt there are other good BAME models as well, so why feature someone who was not?

We will be happy to post your statement on Mrs Seacole’s contributions to modern nursing.

Yours sincerely

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


See a website on Seacole:

Nightingale Newsletter 2021:1

From Lynn McDonald, project director · April 3, 2021


For many years two separate newsletters went out (both occasionally): one strictly academic, to the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale list; the other the Nightingale Society list, with polemical notes,  such as responses to attacks on Nightingale. For simplicity, the two have now been combined, so that there is both academic material (new publications), Nightingale relevant events, etc., as well as responses to attacks. Thanks to people who send me new items and suggestions.

Congratulations to Tim Harford on the radio broadcast version of his chapter on Nightingale and data visualization—he plays himself on it, with Helena Bonham Carter (a Nightingale relevant) as Nightingale herself.

Congratulations to Dr Steven Lockley, Harvard Medical School, on his article in Scientific American (18 March 2021) “What Florence Nightingale Can Teach Us about Architecture and Health.” The article points out such things as “sunlight is a critical determinant of health and wellness,” and that “natural light has been shown to decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure and even treat depression faster than antidepressants,” and it can “also decrease harmful bacteria and viruses,” hand with the pandemic.

More Publications on Nightingale and Statistics

The paper/PowerPoint I gave to the Radical Statistics Group in London February 2020, BEFORE the lockdown, has now come out in the Radical Statistics Group journal, Issue No. 128 (pp 28-48):

But why did they change my title? It was “Florence Nightingale and Statistics: What She Did and What She Did Not,” an obvious (obviously not obvious) play on the title of her most famous (but not famous enough) publication, Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not.

New Article on Nightingale, Nursing and Health Care

Please advise if you have anything to announce. The following article is by me (Lynn McDonald).

A reply (finally) to the recent (preposterous) accusations against Nightingale

A number of people brought the ludicrous accusations against Nightingale published in nursing journals and  a nursing blog. Herewith a reply, citing primary evidence for the refutations (the accusations were without any real evidence, but they convinced too many people).

Nightingale Bicentenary: Newsletter 2020:2

From Lynn McDonald, project director · May 12, 2020

May 12 2020 is, finally, the bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth. We all join in celebrating it and her great contributions to nursing, health care and social reform.

We hope that organizations will re-schedule for 2021. Reflection and recognition of her work is still needed. Nightingale was not only the major founder of nursing, but the first advocate of the great principle of the National Health Service, health promotion with treatment, and access to quality care for all, regardless of ability to pay. She was a pioneer of evidence-based health care, an approach crucial to learning the lessons of the current pandemic.

Ironically, one of the largest events to be cancelled (re-scheduled?) is a nursing convention at the Ex-Cel Centre, London, now the venue for the first (temporary) NHS Nightingale Hospital for COVID-19 patients. There are now seven such hospitals in England and two in Norther Ireland.

However, the anti-Nightingale propaganda continues, even on the subject of the coronavirus pandemic. NHS England and the secretary of state for health, Matt Hancock, have announced the establishment of a set of NHS “centres” for ongoing care for COVID-19 patients, named after the commendable businesswoman Mary Seacole, but treated as an equal nurse to Nightingale. The Nursing Times announcement even had both of them putting their lives “on the line to nurse wounded soldiers,” when her three forays onto the battlefield all took place post-battle, after she sold wine and sandwiches to battle spectators (yes, there were spectators, happily ensconced on a hillside—battles were only a matter of hours).

What Next?

Let us re-commit to celebrating Nightingale’s work, drawing on it for future studies and policy development. Let us re-commit to defending her reputation when it is wrongfully challenged. Let us “speak truth to power,” to the Department of Health, the NHS and its agencies and related ministers.

Exceptionally, this newsletter is going as well to a) people on the Nightingale Society list, whose object is to defend Nightingale’s reputation, and b) to those on the Collected Works list, for people interested in her work without sharing in joint letters going out.

There is a letter to co-sign at the end of this newsletter.

Bicentenary Events Online

British Library: Florence Nightingale at 200

Date/Time: May 12, 2020, 4:00pm British Summer Time

Register here to follow the live event on Zoom: (free)

Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820 and went on to achieve a staggering amount in a long life of nursing and campaigning. In this live event our distinguished panel considers her life, career and legacy amid the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic. With biographer Mark Bostridge; editor of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, Lynn McDonald; President of the Royal College of Nursing, Anne Marie Rafferty; and one of our leading statisticians, David Spiegelhalter.

An Evening With Florence Nightingale: A Reluctant Celebrity

Date/time: May 12, 2020 noon Pacific time; 2pm Central time; 3pm Eastern time (8pm British Summer Time; 7pm UTC)

Candy Campbell writes:
Let’s celebrate, as Miss Nightingale entertains you with her wit and wisdom. BYOG (bring your own glass) and join my friend and nurse colleague, Sharon Weinstein, of the Global Educational Development Institute (, as we toast Miss Nightingale’s 200 years of nursing excellence and recognize the work of GEDI in over 60 developing countries.

We’ll celebrate with a birthday cake and gifts!

Order your free ticket on Eventbrite: No worries if you don’t have time to tune in that day. Just register and you will also receive a link to the recording afterwards.

Represented by: Performance Management International
Candy Campbell, DNP, RN, CNL, CEP, FNAP
Blending Art and Science for Positive System Change

On Nightingale and Coronavirus

Nightingale and the coronavirus pandemic: disease prevention, parallels and principles

(Significance Magazine)

Written by Lynn McDonald on 30 April 2020

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) was an early and persistent advocate of the best means to prevent the spread of infectious diseases – frequent handwashing – calling for it in her 1860 Notes on Nursing and adding details on the use of disinfectants in later writing. She was a pioneer of evidence-based health care, from the lessons learned from the high mortality rates of the Crimean War (1854–56). NHS England, in giving the name “Nightingale Hospital” to seven temporary hospitals for Covid-19 patients, is recognizing Nightingale’s relevance to combatting infectious diseases.

Note the parallels between the challenges she faced and the current pandemic:

  • Nightingale’s Crimean War Barrack Hospital had 4,000 beds and was then, in 1854, the largest in the world. The newly created NHS Nightingale Hospitals in Birmingham and London’s Docklands may not be the largest in the world, but both have the capacity to house up to 4,000 patients.
  • Like the infectious diseases of Nightingale’s day (fevers and bowel diseases), coronavirus has no vaccine or effective treatment. Health care workers help the patient through the crisis, now with respirators, but given the advances in medical sciences since Nightingale’s day, the prospects of a vaccine and/or effective treatment for Covid-19 are great.

One other parallel from then to now: London’s NHS Nightingale Hospital was officially opened by Prince Charles, “attending” remotely from his residence at Birk Hall, on the Balmoral estate in Scotland. Nightingale herself stayed at Birk Hall in 1856, when it was the home of Queen Victoria’s physician, Sir James Paget, a Nightingale ally. The Queen, Prince Albert and Nightingale together, at Balmoral, pressed Lord Panmure, the Secretary of State for War, for a study to be done of what went wrong in the Crimean War hospitals, where high death rates were common. This became Nightingale’s 853-page Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army, published in 1858.

In preparing this analysis, Nightingale and her team of experts learned the lessons of the Crimean War and went on to press, successfully, for higher standards in ventilation, cleanliness and clean water (through improved sewers and drains) in hospitals, barracks, towns and rural areas. The new standards worked: death rates declined.

Evidence of this success can be seen in the declines in the number of hospital beds the British Army needed. The vast army hospital that was built after the war, at Netley on the south coast of England, was over-built, its number of beds based on the usual pre-Crimea percentage. That hospital was not filled to capacity until the Boer War of 1899–1902, more than 30 years after it opened. Nightingale joked to her MP brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney: “Really, it is not our fault if the number of sick has fallen so much that they can’t fill their hospitals.”

Nightingale was not only an expert herself in analysing statistical data, she could call on leading experts in public health (Dr John Sutherland), medical statistics (Dr William Farr), civil engineering (Robert Rawlinson) and military engineering (Douglas Galton). She typically sent her results to one or more of them, asking for a critique before publishing – this in the time before peer review. She could ask the right questions and bring in the most appropriate data to answer them, including cross-sectional comparisons (making the most relevant comparisons) and longitudinal data (to see what changes after causal factors are altered).

After the Crimean War, and learning its lessons, Nightingale began to call for systematic improvements in data collection, both for the military and general population. Then, as now, epidemics have to be identified and tracked without delay. Good weekly data on disease and death has to be produced, to become daily data as an epidemic appears.

Will the lessons of this coronavirus pandemic be learned? It happens that different countries/states have adopted different measures of prevention, from thorough lockdown to mere voluntary social distancing. The amount of testing done has also varied enormously, from substantial numbers to only the very worst cases. Thus, like it or not, the elements of an experiment are in place. We will soon see who achieves the best results, in terms of the lowest number of deaths per population.

This coronavirus pandemic is likely to carry on for some time, and/or return in later waves. We need medical experts to find an effective vaccine and methods of treatment. As well, especially while waiting for such developments, we need Nightingale-type research to assess the success (or not) of the various measures used to limit that spread.

How would Florence Nightingale have tackled Covid-19?

by Carola Hoyos
The Guardian, May 5, 2020

Two hundred years on, the lady with the lamp would be a fearsome thorn in the government’s side on PPE, if not prime minister herself

Florence Nightingale was born 200 years ago this month. Warped by Victorian romanticism and our antiquated view of women, she has been taught for generations as “the lady with the lamp” who during the Crimean war in 1854 heeded God’s call to travel to Scutari, part of today’s Istanbul. With her small troupe of dedicated nurses, she scrubbed hospital floors, swept away rats, and saw to it that soldiers’ wounds were tended to properly.

Yet, she did much more than this. She transformed society for generations through her social activism and intellect. Were she alive today, Nightingale would not be walking, torch in hand, among the patients of the Covid-19 hospitals named after her. She would instead be gazing intently at her laptop, her smartphone holding thousands of texts with the most influential people of the day, from the Queen and the prime minister to mathematicians and epidemiologists. Her computer would be filled with data-laden spreadsheets and she would be having a lively Twitter debate about the reliability of death figures.

Of course, the question of what Nightingale would be doing requires a degree of poetic licence. But there are clues within her enormous archive of letters, books and reports that allow the exercise to rise above a flight of fancy.

For example, in an 1864 letter to Charles Hathaway, a special sanitary commissioner for Calcutta, she decries the absurdity of politicised health data. “I could not help laughing at your critics who ‘exclude’ specific diseases such as ‘cholera’, accidents ‘proving fatal’ etc. It is very convenient indeed to leave out all deaths that ought not to have happened, as not having happened. And it is certainly a new way of preventing preventable mortality to omit it altogether from any statement of mortality, then they would ‘exclude deaths above 60.’ Their principle, if logically carried out, is simply to throw out all ages and all diseases and then there would be no mortality whatever.”

Nightingale would be furious about Donald Trump’s fake data. But she would also fume at Boris Johnson’s early indecision and the UK’s shortages of medical equipment.

“The three things which all but destroyed the army in Crimea were ignorance, incapacity, and useless rules; and the same thing will happen again, unless future regulations are framed more intelligently, and administered by better informed and more capable officers,” she wrote, exasperated by inept civil servants and politicians.

Nightingale came back from Scutari a celebrity. Today, she would have millions of Twitter followers and use her popularity to press and cajole the government to make informed decisions about when to come out of lockdown and how to decrease the enormous death toll in care homes. And also to fundraise for supplies, as she did in her day.

Nightingale was born on 12 May, 1820 to a wealthy family. This gave her access to a first-class home education and an erudite network of influential acquaintances ranging from the mathematician Charles Babbage to Sidney Herbert, the secretary of state for war. She had a strong sense of justice and was an immensely studious child who excelled at every subject. But her greatest love was mathematics, particularly statistics. The statistician Karl Pearson wrote that for Nightingale, the study of statistics was a religious duty. “To understand God’s thoughts, she held we must study statistics, for these are the measure of His purpose.”

She made her biggest impact by unleashing her quantitative skills on the data she had collected about Scutari. She used her findings and her dogged determination to drive the restructuring of the army medical services and sanitation in the UK, later taking her expertise abroad to as far afield as India and North America. The same data-led approach led her to develop modern nursing – she founded her nursing school at St Thomas’, the same London hospital Johnson was rushed to last month with the coronavirus. She also developed palliative care and midwifery, and to rethink the design of hospital buildings and the civilian health system.

Mathematicians and data scientists revere Nightingale as one of history’s most important statisticians. She used data comparisons to find the causes of problems and to make forecasts.

But Nightingale knew that data was only as persuasive as the graphs that illustrated them, so she became a pioneer in data visualisation. She made famous the polar area graph, which showed that soldiers in Scutari died of preventable diseases rather than their battle wounds, and that their mortality rate plummeted when a sanitation commission cleaned up the hospital’s infected water supply. She would use the information to save countless more civilians and soldiers from dying because of poor living standards and sanitation at home. In 1858, the woman who was not allowed to attend university because of her gender was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.

Lynn McDonald, the author of numerous books based on Nightingale’s writing, believes Nightingale’s statistically driven ideas of social reform created the early bedrock on which the NHS was founded after the second world war.

Were Nightingale alive today, I could imagine her as prime minister, guiding the UK through a pandemic experience closer to that of New Zealand and Germany. But now I am taking a lot of poetic licence.

At the very least, she would not be known as the lady with the lamp. Instead, generations would know her as “the social reformer with the spreadsheet”.

Carola Hoyos is writing a screenplay about Florence Nightingale. She is a former journalist for the Financial Times and the founder of the charity

Co-sign a letter : we still have to make the point!If you agree, simply reply to this email, with yes, sign

If you have never co-signed a letter with us to set the record straight, now is your chance!

Rt Hon Boris Johnson, PC, MP, prime minister
Rt Hon Matt Hancock, PC, MP, secretary of state for health
Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive, NHS

Dear Prime Minister, Mr Hancock and Sir Simon

re: Mary Seacole propaganda and the Nightingale bicentenary

We were pleased to see the Nightingale’s name used for the NHS temporary COVID-19 hospitals. She herself was a frontline nurse (and organizer and campaigner) at the largest hospital of her time, nearly died form an infectious disease caught there, and the leader in conducting the research that led to important and ongoing decreases in disease and death rates after the war. Certainly an example for today.

However, by naming the new rehab hospitals after Mary Seacole, you are perpetuating a factual mistake, albeit for the commendable goal of promoting racial equality and bringing forward BAME role models for NHS staff. It is simply not true that Mary Seacole was a nurse: name one hospital where she nursed in any country, or anywhere that she was a “community health” leader. She sold over-the-counter “herbal” remedies, to which she admitted adding lead and mercury, toxic substances. She admitted making “lamentable blunders” in her remedies, this in her memoir. Her Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole, 1857, is still a good read, but it is about her travels, her restaurant (with recipes) and the famous people she met. She never called herself a “nurse,” but rather “doctress, nurse and mother,” reserving the term “nurse” for Nightingale and her nurses. Distributing magazines to the hospital near her business shows her kindness, but should not be confused with skilled nursing.

The British government under former prime minister David Cameron (chancellor George Osborne) contributed some £200 million to the massive statue at St Thomas’ Hospital, opposite the Parliament buildings. Yet it was Nightingale who lobbied ministers on health care, she who wrote a brief on nursing for the Parliamentary committee that made the crucial step to bringing up the dreaded workhouse infirmaries to the standards of a regular hospital (the Metropolitan Poor Act, 1867, under a Conservative government). The statue is there now, but the ongoing, false, tributes, to Seacole should stop. “Leadership” awards in her name give the impression that Seacole was a nursing leader. Name one instance of such leadership!

An unhappy consequence of the mistaken choice of Seacole as a black nursing leader is that valid BAME nursing leaders are ignored. We note the very strong qualifications of a Nigerian nurse who trained at the Nightingale School, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse (in 1948) in the NHS. Pratt, like the Portuguese nurse, Luis Pitarma, who nursed Mr Johnson, she chose St Thomas’ (the Nightingale School was there then) because she was inspired by Nightingale.

Finally, Nightingale’s goals for her nurses-in-training included being “honest, truthful and trustworthy.” We believe that these are still excellent goals for nurses today, and the NHS.

Yours sincerely


Newsletter 2020:1

From Lynn McDonald, project director · January 3, 2020

New letter of Nightingale!

Many thanks to Nightingale relative John Shallcross, and to Paul Crawford and Richard Bates of the U Nottingham team, for sending along a transcription of an interesting Nightingale letter to Marianne Nicholson, about her brother Lothian (later General Sir Lothian) Nicholson, then serving with the Royal Engineers in the Crimean War. The letter is owned by Margaret Povey, granddaughter of Lothian Nicholson and herself a Nightingale nurse. It is exceptional for its criticism of regular “Line” officers and its lauding of patriotism.

Scutari Hospital
Sept 6/55

My dearest,
Many thanks for your letter. It was one of the privations which I felt the most lately in my absence from England and that I could not come back to see Aunt Hannah once more before she died in this world. I think there are few like her left. We seem so face to face with death here that perhaps we think less of it than you do. It seems as if the reunion might be so near. I lost my poor cholera Matron and best help after a few hours of Cholera on Thursday.

Who can wish for Aunt Hannah back? But what a loss she is, and when I say this, I hardly know whether it is to be said with most joy or sorrow. I can dwell upon her lively remembrance & wish that I could once more have seen her face on earth. You say truly how we are all changed.

You cannot think what it was to me to see Lothian again after so long. Looking too so manly & good & earnest after the worn out old ‘routiniers’ we have here. I hear from all sides that he is doing his work right manfully up there. That the RE are the only men to be depended upon in the trenches. I suppose I am telling no secret now when I say how much the Officers of the Line have shirked work and how much has fallen upon the R.E.s who have nobly stood to their duty. I cannot regret that Lothian is there. I know what you would say. But surely at such a moment as this, there is a reality in the old word ‘patria’ there is a grace & divine ambition in standing by your God & mankind where so many have failed.

yours ever
F. Nightingale


Bicentenary events

With the Bicentenary of Florence Nightingale Year now here, there are numerous events to take note of, dates and places available through the Florence Nightingale Museum.

My visit February-May 2020

I will be in the UK for nearly 3 months this spring, after giving a paper in Florence, Italy, at the conference of the European Association for the History of Nursing, 14-15 February.

UK events I will be speaking at (confirmed) are:

  • 28-29 February 2020, RadStats conference, St Luke’s Community Centre, Central Street (near Old St.). This is a day and a half conference, with a walk on the Saturday afternoon and social events in the evening. My keynote address is “Florence Nightingale and Statistics: What She Did and What She Did Not.” Dr Eileen Magnello speaks on “Florence Nightingale: The Radical and Passionate Statistician.” Other contemporary papers look very interesting.
  • 6 March 2020, Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives conference, Royal College of Physicians of London; my paper is “Florence Nightingale, Universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals–from then to now.”
  • 18 March 2020 Florence Nightingale Lecture in Statistics, at the Mathematical Institute, Oxford, 2:30 p.m. (attending) 23 March 2020 Conference of the Royal Statistical Society, Errol St. (near Old St.); my paper is on Nightingale and her work in statistics
  • 21 April 2020 Event and exhibition at Leeds Lotherton; my talk is at 2 p.m., “Florence Nightingale: The Legacy” 22 April 2020, Leeds General Infirmary (Nightingale both assisted on the design and sent the first trained nurses there)
  • 7 May 2020 University of Nottingham; my lecture is The Legacy of Florence Nightingale: The Work You Never Hear About, 1-2 p.m. (the University of Nottingham hosts Paul Crawford’s project on the Nightingale Family and Derbyshire).

Newsletter 2019:2

From Lynn McDonald, project director · October 18, 2019

A new Nightingale letter!

this one from 1897, on district nursing, with an interesting plea for “private nurses” to have organization, and “a high idea of their calling.” Thanks to Dr Candy Campbell for noticing it and sending it and to the Daily Mail for publishing it in full.
Joe Middleton, “Letter penned by a bedridden Florence Nightingale that sets out her vision for community nursing is found 122 years later during a house clearance”, Daily Mail 16 October 2019:

London March 29/97

My dear Sir
A most kind letter has
been forwarded to me here from
you in London where I
live, asking me to present
at your “Summer Carnival”
in June.
I have always felt the
greatest interest in &
admiration of your Leeds
“Workpeople’s Hospital”
contributions. You put [illeg]
kindness to shame for our
people do not come
forward to help the
Hospitals as yours do-
Nothing would give me
greater pleasure than to
come & see your benevolent
doings with my own eyes.
But for years I have not
been out of the house —
for two years I have not
been out of my room —
except in either case
for an unrepeatable
I do desire to know more
of you, & I should
delight in seeing your
Workpeople’s enthusiasm
for charitable purposes.
It is a lesson to England.
But alas! for me it is


Besides which, I am always
under the severe pressure
of work, as one’s strength
decreases. But I am so
thankful to be permitted
to do it.
India & the training of
Nurses are my two
subjects. But I always
feel that we are still
only on the threshold of
training. Till every poor
mother knows how to feed
her infant, wash & clothe
it, so as to insure it the
greatest chance of health
till private nurses have
an organisation, a principle
a high idea of their
calling — till every poor
sick person has a slice
of a trained District
Nurse, we cannot be said
to have passed the
threshold —
Will you kindly present
my most grateful thanks
to your Committee for
wishing to have me &
to make such kind
arrangements for me, &
accept the same yourself
from yours ever sincerely
Florence Nightingale
Pray excuse pencil
God bless you as you bless me
Joseph William Hollings
[illeg worth?]


Next trip to London

My plans so far for the 2020 Bicentenary include:

  • giving a paper in Florence at a conference of the European Association for the History of Nursing, in Florence
  • giving a paper at the Radical Statistics conference in London, February 20
  • giving a paper at the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation congress in London 6 March, followed by a trip to Lea Hurst, with a mini-meeting of the Nightingale Society there (this mainly for people attending the Commonwealth meetings)
  • Taking part in a regular meeting of the Nightingale Society in London, to be held before or after the Commonwealth meeting
  • In late April a trip with meetings in Leeds
  • May 7, speaking at the University of Nottingham
  • and possibly other events yet to be scheduled

People on this email list who want to know more about Bicentenary 2020 events, please reply and ask to be added to the Nightingale Society email list (for occasional updates). Please advise of any must-do events on Nightingale.

Newsletter 2019:1

From Lynn McDonald, project director · March 14, 2019

Reflections on Nightingale

by the people who knew her and worked with her continue to show up. Most instructive is a lecture by Surgeon-General Evatt, with whom Nightingale worked for years. After his retirement and return to England, he would spend three hours plus with her, from 5 p.m., discussing everything.

In his lecture to the Royal Artillery, he described what he had learned from her. He claimed indeed that she had “founded” the Army Medical School: “She turned a thousand Army doctors into a thousand preventive men.” Specifically, that “There is a higher law, namely, that prevention is better than cure, and she was the angel of prevention.”

Evatt further stated that Nightingale “was the person who first saw the necessity of the power which the Medical Service got in 1860, that was the power of making recommendations to the commanding officers on questions with reference to their men…. She was able to move the whole world in the sanitary direction.”

Nursing did not help until the basics of sanitation were in place: “Nurse, Nurse, Nurse, but you may have a million nurses and you will not stop typhoid.” (G.J.H. Evatt, “Personal Recollections of Florence Nightingale in Reference to her Reforms for the Soldier.” Journal of the Royal Artillery 43 (1917):407-21).

Nightingale at 79

As people prepare to celebrate Nightingale’s bicentenary in 2020, it might be well to note how fervent she still was at age 79. Hospital philanthropist Sydney Holland recalled a meeting with her:

Keep what you know is right before you, and never cease trying to get it. Aim high and people will follow you in the end….. No, no–no one can be neutral in this life; you are either doing good or bad, and the very fact of not trying to do good is bad in itself (Sydney Holland, Viscount Knutsford, In Black and White, 154).

London Events

The Nightingale Society is holding its annual meeting, chaired by Eileen Magnello, at the Royal Statistical Society, April 12, 2019, 11 a.m. (lunch provided). Focus on the Bicentenary celebration of Nightingale’s birth in 2020. If you wish to attend, please reply to

FYI. Lynn McDonald is giving a talk at King’s College, London on April 10: “Mary Seacole: Myths in the Making of the Nursing Profession” 2:00-4:30 p.m. drinks reception following.

Newsletter 2018:1

From Lynn McDonald, project director · March 2, 2018

Image from Japanese Nightingale comic

Royal Canadian Military Institute

It was great to see so many Nightingale enthusiasts, including nurses, military and other, at the “Military History” night February 15. My talk was “Learning the Lessons of the Crimean War: Florence Nightingale, Statistics and Army Reform.” A highlight: a nurse there brought a new-to-me Nightingale letter, written from the Barrack Hospital, Scutari. Always wonderful to see another letter!

UK Trip 2018

On March 11 2018, Lynn will give a paper at the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation meetings, and otherwise attend its events: “Nurses after Nightingale: The next generation of nurses facing war and epidemics.”

On March 12 2018 (Monday), the Nightingale Society meets at the Royal Statistical Society, chaired by Eileen Magnello. (Anyone interested in attending, please reply by email to — it is 11:00 a.m., a lunch meeting).

On April 21 2018 Lynn will give the Florence Nightingale Lecture, “The Real Goods and the Lasting Legacy,” at Wellow, Hampshire (near the Nightingale home and the church where she is buried).

Australia: 150 years of professional nursing

Marilyn Gendek reports from Australia that an anniversary stamp and envelope will be issued on the 150th anniversary of the (March 5, 1868) arrival of matron Lucy Osburn and her team to start professional nursing at the Sydney Infirmary.



Newsletter 2017:4

From Lynn McDonald, project director · December 7, 2017

Nightingale as a Founder of Sociological Theory

Sociological Theory beyond the Canon, a new book (2017) from Palgrave Macmillan (Springer) challenges the Eurocentrism and the androcentrism of sociological theory. Authors Syed Farid Alatas and Vineeta Sinha are both professors at the National University of Singapore. Their book is one I had begun hoping for in 1993 when my Early Origins of the Social Sciences appeared, which gave (some) space to Nightingale and other neglected theorists, followed up with the Women Founders of the Social Sciences, 1994. But so few sociologists actually began to take women theorists seriously. These authors also cover that paltry coverage. Congratulations!

Vineeta Sinha’s chapter on Florence Nightingale is substantial and impressive. I was intrigued also by her chapter on a woman theorist I did not know of, Pandita Ramabai Saraswati, and there is an interesting Philippine theorist, José— Rizal.

New Digital Source

Adam Matthew has announced the release of its new digital source of correspondence and papers, Medical Services and Warfare, which has a substantial section on Nightingale’s work (which I organized). The source has a new-to-me search device, Handwritten Text Recognition, which will highlight a word you want in the handwritten letter. (The Collected Works website uses digitized transcriptions.)

Florence Nightingale’s life in Derbyshire: toward the bicentenary

A new study has been announced, under Anna Greenwood, History, and Paul Crawford, Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, with the participation of the University of Derby and Derby NHS teaching hospitals.

The project will hire a junior academic in the Dept of History. Workshops will be held in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and there will be a travelling exhibition, all directed to the celebration of the 2020 bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth, focusing on her work in Derbyshire.

She did a great deal of work promoting nursing and organizing care for people near her home, reported in the Collected Works in volume 13, Florence Nightingale: Extending Nursing, and much on hospital reform in Derby, reported in volume 16, Florence Nightingale on Hospital Reform.

More good news! The Nightingale statue in Derby has been cleaned up — it is no longer green!

New Research on Nightingale and Early Nursing

Congratulations to Claire Jones, Marguerite Dupree, Iain Hutchison, Susan Gardiner and Anne Marie Rafferty for “Personalities, Preferences and Practicalities: Educating Nurses in Wound Sepsis in the British Hospital, 1870-1920” Social History of Medicine.

The article draws on archival sources on four early nursing schools, the Nightingale School at St Thomas’, the Edinburgh and Glasgow Royal Infirmaries (both of which were led by matrons trained at the Nightingale School, and King’s College Hospital). The article is refreshing in showing positive links between leading doctors (notably Joseph Lister) and nurses in bringing in antiseptic and aseptic measures to prevent post-operative deaths. The research is part of a larger project, with up-and-coming researchers. The article is a refreshing change from the common portrayal of Nightingale as a lifelong denier of germ theory (sadly even in sources that are supposed to be reputable, like the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).

Translation of Nightingale’s Suggestions for Thought

Rob van der Peet is well along into his translation into Dutch of Nightingale’s Suggestions for Thought. Publication (digital) is planned for May 12 2020, the 200th anniversary of her birth. He tells me: “Everyone knows Nightingale as a nurse, or the lady with the lamp. Some people know her as a statistician. Very few people know that she has written a theological/philosophical work like Suggestions for Thought as well.” His own background is excellent for the task, nursing, philosophy and theology. He is adding notes with information about the persons and biblical verses cited (he has found more than 300 biblical citations). Good going!

Delegates to the Geneva Convention

It is curious how descendants of doctors who worked with Nightingale continue to take an interest in her. Nightingale advised the two British delegates to the Geneva Convention of 1864, Drs Robert Rutherford and Thomas Longmore, both old Crimean hands. One Rutherford connection kindly provided me a look at his diary for the events; another has found letters and is looking at them. A Longmore descendant had memorabilia both from the Geneva Convention and the Crimean War (I loved the Russian icon Dr Thomas Longmore purchased in Constantinople en route to the Crimea). Most welcome, all these connections.

Newsletter 2017:3

From Lynn McDonald, project director · August 29, 2017

Dr Robert Dingwall reports on a paper by Ursula Martin, on Nightingale and mathematics, at the Oxford History of Science, Medicine and Technology seminar May 29 2017, “Hidden histories: the women who made computing in Oxford.” It notes especially that Nightingale “campaigned for a chair in data science.”

Our New Zealand intensivist member, Dr Ron Trubuhovich, is giving a paper on Nightingale at a conference in Boston, the International Symposium on the History of Anaesthesia. The paper deals with common errors in the literature on what Nightingale did regarding intensive care, triaging, etc.

2018 in the UK

I will be giving a paper at the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives’ Association meetings in London March 10-11 2018. I Would be glad to hear from any other people who are presenting at that conference. The organization’s excellent conference in 2016 proved to be very good for networking — nurses and midwives from around the world, and lots of interest in Nightingale.

My paper, to fit in with the conference theme of a “safe, healthy and peaceful world,” is “Nurses after Nightingale: The next generation of nurses facing war and epidemics.” The plan is to showcase nurses after Nightingale, who were influenced by her.

Nightingale’s letters to the editor

As well as writing full books and articles, Nightingale often sent letters to the editor, mainly to The Times on important subjects. One, on establishing district nursing, is virtually an article.

The Times was her favourite source for getting the word out, perhaps because it had given strong coverage of what was wrong in the Crimean War, which prompted the reforms that were made. The long-serving editor of The Times, John T. Delane, was an ally.

The Illustrated London News also got some important, even lengthy, material, especially on India.

This material is now available on the website of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale. It includes some gems, for example, Nightingale’s support of the rescue of David Livingstone.

I send you my little mite for Dr Livingstone’s search. May God speed every effort to save one of the greatest men of our time, or, if he is dead, to save his discoveries! If it cost £10,0000 to send him a pair of boots, England ought to give it (January 31 1872).

No wonder people wanted Nightingale to write fund raising letters for them!

Nightingale also appeared in The Times frequently when she was mentioned by other people, speaking in the House of Commons, for example.

Her 1867 brief on workhouse infirmaries, to a Parliamentary Committee (noted in the last newsletter) got good coverage, “Miss Nightingale on Training of Nurses” (March 6 1867):

The committee recently appointed by the Poor Law Board to advise upon the amount of space needed in metropolitan workhouse infirmaries, and upon other allied matters, requested Miss Nightingale to give her opinion and advice in relation to a supply of trained nurses for these infirmaries, and received from her a series of suggestions upon the subject. Miss Nightingale begins with observing that the word nursing is improving its meaning every year, and that what she proposes to treat of is trained nursing, that is qualified nursing…

(numerous details followed)

Newsletter 2017:2

From Lynn McDonald, project director · May 12, 2017

International Nurses Day

May 12, as usual, Nightingale’s birthday, is celebrated as International Nurses Day (or part of a week).

Thanks to Dr Aroha Page, RN, for noting the events sponsored by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, which includes giving out the Toronto Star’s Nightingale awards.

Congratulations to Dr Marilyn Gendkek, RN, who is discussing Nightingale’s work on an Australian radio program on the day.

Note: please share any Nightingale-related events you are involved in for a future newsletter.

U.K. Trip

I am back from two months in London, mainly at the British Library, with two very pleasant Nightingale-related trips. One was to Lea Hurst, the Nightingale family home in beautiful Derbyshire, and included a walk through the restore “Lea Woods,” and a look at Uncle Peter’s canal cottage. Thanks to Peter and Jenny Kay, who with their family now live at Lea Hurst, again a family home (it was an old-age home for some time).

Thanks to John Shallcross, a Nightingale relative, for inviting me to Salisbury (where he and his wife live), not far from the Nightingales” Hampshire home in East Wellow, and where Nightingale is buried. We not only joined in the Sunday morning service (the vicar, the Rev Chris Pettet, is knowledgeable and keen on the subject), but attended the parish’s “Nightingale lecture,” which does not necessarily have anything to do with Nightingale. This year’s, by Lady Appleyard, was on China’she was the wife of the British ambassador at the time of the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese government. Excellent and hilarious talk.

New Publication

Florence Nightingale: a very brief historyThe SPCK, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, or the “Christian Knowledge” as Nightingale called it, published my Florence Nightingale: A Very Brief History in April. It is a short book, as the title says, part of a series of famous people of Christian faith. Nightingale is in the first five to come out, with Jesus, Paul, Thomas Aquinas and Julian of Norwich. Well placed! The SPCK, in Nightingale’s time, also published progressive material on public health.

The Nightingale Society

There is more news in the Nightingale Society newsletter—if you would like to be on that email list, and are not, please let me know. It contains what is being done to defend Nightingale from attack (which will be news to people in Canada and many countries, but the attacks are nasty and continue in the U.K.). The Nightingale Society met in March in London, in the Nightingale Room of the Royal Statistical Society. Thanks to Dr Eileen Magnello, historian of science, for hosting it.

Newsletter 2017:1

From Lynn McDonald, project director · January 19, 2017

150 Years ago: Nightingale’s proposal for quality nursing, even in the workhouse infirmaries

January 19 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Nightingale’s great proposal for reform to the Poor Law system of Britain, when workhouse infirmaries were the only recourse for the great majority of the population (the regular hospitals were fee paying, with some charity wards). The workhouse infirmaries then were dreaded places, with bed sharing, lousy ventilation and vermin. While there was some attendance by qualified doctors, the only “nursing” provided was by “pauper nurses,” or women with no training, paid a small amount, normally spent on alcohol. Drinking on the job was problem enough in the regular hospitals, but reform had begun. Not so in the workhouses, until the first experiment in Liverpool, organized by Nightingale, and financed by a Liverpool philanthropist.

Nightingale’s proposal in 1867 was a brief to a Parliamentary committee on London workhouses. Its subject was limited to cubic space, certainly an issue, but to Nightingale far from the most important. She took the opportunity to bootleg her cause: the need for quality nursing care.

Her proposal for fundamental reform was not accepted, but the way was opened for reforms at workhouses with progressive boards. Gradual reforms brought up the standards at the workhouses, with Nightingale promoting both improved nursing and better hospital buildings themselves. Reforms continued to be brought in over the next decades, so that, when the National Health Service was launched in 1948, the old workhouse infirmaries could be integrated with the regular, civil, hospitals.

Question: has any Nightingale-related organization noticed this great anniversary? The Royal College of Nursing? Nursing journals??

“New” Nightingale material

I am always pleased to see a “new” letter, meaning one which simply has not been available, but which turns up in a publication. Here is one Nightingale wrote to Ellen Ranyard, who started the Ranyard Mission, or the “Biblewomen” who went to the houses of the poor to provide care. They were said to have a copy of Notes on Nursing under one arm, the Bible under the other.

These women were given only cursory training, however, and their hygiene practices were defective. As the author explained, the mission’s instructions to the nurses “sound strangely unhygienic today,” that they should not fear to “soil” their dark gown, and that it was possible “to be far too clean and respectable for the work” (Alice M. Bunford, Ninety Years a Mission 1857-1947. London: Ranyard Mission 1948, p. 10).

In 1875, Nightingale sent Mrs Ranyard a donation of ?20 with her gratitude and encouragement, and a hint at better practice:

A small gift for the Biblewomen Nurses with Florence Nightingale’s deepest sympathy for the noble attempt to provide nursing and cleanliness for the very poor; with gratitude to God and fervent prayer for its extension and progress. And if she might hint a wish, it would be that this little sum should be expended in waterproof cloaks or washing gowns for summer and washing linen sleeves to take on and off, and washing aprons or washing money for two or three of the nurses in the very poorest district, where there is no local lady to look after these things for the nurses (pp. 10-11).


Newsletter 2016:6

From Lynn McDonald, project director · November 29, 2016

In Memoriam—Gérard Vallée (1933-2016)

I am sorry to inform people connected with the production of
the Collected Works volumes that a dear colleague, Professor
Gérard Vallée, has died. Gérard was professor emeritus of
Religious Studies at McMaster University, Hamilton. He began
by advising on the project, then took on editing Volume 4, Mysticism
and Eastern Religions
, which includes a critical
edition of Nightingale’s Notes on Devotional Authors of
the Middle Ages
and her Letters from Egypt.

Gérard then took on the two volumes on India, a new field for
him: volume 9, Health in India and volume 10, Social
Change in India
. He was a wonderful colleague and will
be sadly missed by friends, family, former students and

reservist standing at FN's bench location, Derbyshire

Nightingale’s Thinking Spot, Lea Hurst,Derbyshire Wildlife

Nightingale would be pleased to know that there is a
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, active in the area around Lea
Hurst, the Nightingale family home. It is now working on
restoring the derelict Aqueduct Cottage, owned by the family,
in Lea Wood, on the banks of the Cromford Canal.

The picture is of the Reserves Officer, at the bench where
Nightingale liked to sit quietly and reflect.

St Florence Nightingale at Cornell UniversityStained Glass
Window at Cornell University Chapel

wonderful stained glass window
has the intriguing
caption under it, “St Florence Nightingale. To the Memory of
Mary Bartlett Hill 1818-1887, this window is erected by her
classmates and fellow students.”

Next London Trip: March-April 2017

I will be spending March and April of 2017 in London, near
the British Library (my club!) and would be happy to meet with
people on Nightingale interests and attend related events
(please notify me of any you know of).


Newsletter 2016:5

From Lynn McDonald, project director · October 10, 2016

New Nightingale letters

Many thanks to Dr Edward Halloran, RN, for sending me a copy of
a letter unknown to me, held at the Armitt Museum Gallery
Library in Ambleside. It is an enthusiastic letter of thanks to
an India expert for his complimentary letter on Lord Lawrence
(Lawrence was a major ally of Nightingale’s on sanitary reform
in India). Thanks to Dr Halloran also for alerting me to
material I did not know about on Nightingale’s influence on
health care during the American Civil War.

July 30/79
10 South St.
Park Lane

Sir, I am a stranger to you, but not to
“John Lawrence” have no excuse for addressing you but to say
Thank you. Thank you for your noble letter about Lord
Lawrence in yesterday’s Times.
You knew him, you know what we feel.
But you cannot know how little he is known in England.
Your contribution to this history in the Mutiny is precious
beyond words, it is priceless.
Could you not publish more soon before the mass of people
have now forgotten him in the rush of the present day, a
sketch, no one else can do it embodying what your letter in
the “Times” gives a fragment of.
They are going to raise a monument to him. I trust this will
be carried out but yours will be the true Monument.
Such a sketch without pretending to be a life as MacCauley
would have written in a “Biographical Essay”.
But what an immeasurable advantage you have above MacCauley
by being the sharer in those grand deeds of which you write.
Even that short letter of yours gives deeds which will be
handed down to England’s great great grand children — to all
Let me say do not wait to til a Life can be written of him —
his name will then have become history like — but who was
there like him. But we want it now. Give us his spirit in a
sketch by you of the deeds which it inspired & which you
shared while his name may still be made one of England’s and
India’s “good words” household words.
We do so want a hero to reverence- in these days of House of
Commons squabbles and so petty, so unheroic.
Show him to us “This last great man” said India now adored.
Show us that last great man that he may not be the last
while we can still see “the chariots of Israel and the
horses thereof” that carried him away from us up into
Forgive me, I will not say more — the subject must speak for

Florence Nightingale
Arthur Brandreth


Nightingale’s Influence in the United States

Nightingale was well known in the United States, from the
Crimea on. Another example of it (again, thanks to Ed Halloran)
is the citation of Nightingale by eminent Oliver Wendell Holmes,
in a famous paper of his, “Currents and Counter Currents in
Medicine,” 1861, or soon after publication of her Notes on
Nursing. He was one of the few doctors to condemn “heroic
medicine,” or the use of powerful drugs (and metals, etc.), in
favour of facilitating nature’s cure.

‘Hippocrates stated the case on the side of “Nature” more than
2000 years ago and if I name her next to the august Father of
the healing art, the noblest daughter well deserves that place
of honour — Miss Florence Nightingale begins her late volume
with a paraphrase of his statement. But from a very early time
to this there has been a strong party against “Nature.”’

Holmes’s “Currents and Counter Currents” is famous for his
statement that “if the whole materia medica, as now used, could
be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be the better for
mankind — and all the worse for the fishes.” Nightingale was
always cautious about medicine.

At the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

Thanks to my cousin, Dr David Large, for accessing this missing
late letter in Edinburgh, to Dr Joseph Bell, who for years gave
instructions to the nurses. A great admirer of Nightingale, he
was the model for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The
letter shows Nightingale, in 1897, defending control of the
nursing by the matron — not the doctors.

Bell dedicated his 1887 book, Notes on Surgery for Nurses, to

& Confidential Jany 13/97
[printed address] 10, South Street
Park Lane, W.

My dear Sir

I have never thanked
you for your very kind note.
– & at the end you said
that you hoped “good“ & not
rather than “harm” would
come out of the present
business for Miss Spencer
at the R. Infirmary.
Your kindness will easily
believe my anxiety about
the change in the “Rule”-
also that I beg to apologize
for venturing any opinion
in the matter, but may I
express the hope that the
old Rule may be left
as it was — and no more
restriction be placed upon
the discretion of the Matron
with regard to Nurses on
the Staff than the previous
approval of the House
committee — and if possible
only of the Chairman of the
House Committee

[At St Thomas’ we
have found that rules
practically identical with
the old rules have worked
satisfactorily for a very
long period
(1) Matron having the full
power (in practice she
consults the Secretary of the
N Fund in any case of
(2) the Treasurer who is
the Chief Executive Officer
having the power of dismissal
of Sisters & Nurses and
in practice always acting
upon the recommendation
of the Matron & never
referring to a Committee
& that
But the Matron almost
invariably communicates
with the Physician or Surgeon
of the Ward, tho’ not directed
to do so by any Rule.]
& that good discipline so
much depends upon the
authority of the Matron
being maintained, as you
know, that you will
& that we attach great
importance to the action
of the Governing Body of the
Royal Infirmary in this
respect which has taken
such a valuable leading
part in the organisation of
good Nursing.
I am so sorry that
your “term of office” is
over — as a manger.
Pray excuse this long
letter & this pencil-
I scarcely pretend to
offer an opinion but
rather to follow what I
believe to be yours:-
And I am sure we both
of us agree in “not harm
“but good” resulting
Miss Spencer as Matron

yours ever sincerely
F. Nightingale
Joseph Bell Esq MD


Newsletter 2016:4

From Lynn McDonald, project director · June 8, 2016

Note: Some people who receive this email also get the Nightingale Society (occasional) emails, so will see the same information there. It is being sent to both lists as many people on the CWFN email list, which normally covers news items and academic material, will not know of the anti-Nightingale campaign being so successfully pursued in the U.K., which sometimes extends to the replacement of Nightingale as ‘Pioneer Nurse’ and sometimes lists her as one of two ‘equal Pioneer Nurses.’

History Hoax Committee update

The History Hoax Committee advises us that the first nominations have come in: Boris Johnson (for his promotion of Seacole when mayor of London) and Jeremy Hunt (secretary of state for health). The nominator of the second gave an excellent explanation of his demerits:

For promoting the replacement of Florence Nightingale with Mary Seacole as the ‘real founder’ of nursing, through the department’s programme, ‘Heroes of Healthcare.’ In erroneously omitting Florence Nightingale from her role as founder of nursing, public health visionary and pioneer in statistical analysis to improving public health and saving lives, the programme instead honoured Mary Seaocle for nursing, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson for women in medicine, Edward Jenner for medicine, and Nye Bevan for the healthcare system. All deserved credit for their contribution, but not to the exclusion of Florence Nightingale, whose quality and quantity of health impacts were far greater.

(It is not essential to provide a detailed explanation, unless nominating someone not well known.)

Unveiling of Seacole Statue at Nightingale’s Hospital

A media release confirms the date of June 30 2016, at noon, for the unveiling. The event is private, invitations only. No royal personage is named as presiding – perhaps no one wanted to be associated with such a campaign of misinformation?

The media release reveals a new fake honour for Mary Seacole, that she was ‘mentioned in dispatches.’ Two military historians confirm that this is a wrongful use of the term. ‘Mentioned in dispatches’ refers to an official report made by the person’s commander, for gallantry. The recipient gets an oakleaf on the relevant campaign medal.

Yet the Seacole campaign announcement states: ‘She was mentioned in dispatches where her contributions were praised.’ In fact, she was mentioned by the Times war correspondent, W.H. Russell, in a story. He, too, was on the battlefield, getting stories – neither of them was under fire, as the battle was over when they went out. He knew her as a customer at her restaurant/bar, which he left with an unpaid bill.

Selling sandwiches and wine to spectators watching a battle safely from a hill does not constitute gallantry worthy of being ‘mentioned in dispatches.’

Another piece of misinformation in the Seacole unveiling announcement is that ‘the British Army asked her to supervise nursing services at their headquarters’ [in Jamaica during the 1853 yellow fever epidemic]. There were no nursing services at their headquarters, and Seacole’s own memoir states only that she was ‘sent for by the medical authorities to provide nurses for the sick at Up-Park Camp [Kingston],’ but that she did not!

Newsletter 2016:3

From Lynn McDonald, project director · June 4, 2016

Note: Some people who receive this email also get the Nightingale Society (occasional) emails, so will see the same information there. It is being sent to both lists as many people on the CWFN email list, which normally covers news items and academic material, will not know of the anti-Nightingale campaign being so successfully pursued in the U.K., which sometimes extends to the replacement of Nightingale as “Pioneer Nurse” and sometimes lists her as one of two “equal Pioneer Nurses.”

Seacole statue unveiling expected on 30 June

Those who do not follow the UK press, or nursing matters in the UK, will likely not know how far this has gone. This is an alert! A Mary Seacole statue is being erected, and the official unveiling will take place, at St Thomas” Hospital, London — for more than a century the home of the Nightingale School of Nursing, the world”s first.

A reliable source informs us that the date of the unveiling will be June 30 2016, with a royal personage (not as yet unnamed) doing the honours. Shame on whoever that is!

The Nightingale Society will be alerting the media as to the fallaciousness of the claims. We invite anyone who can to add their own voice. Please note, if you see an article in a newspaper that accepts letters-to-the editor, please forward it to (Do your own reply! Let us try one!)

If you find this to be objectionable, as we in the Nightingale Society do, please add your voice. Simply respond to this email adding your name to the Nightingale Society list. You will get (occasional) updates on what is happening.

History Hoax Awards Committee

A History Hoax Awards Committee was formed in 2015 when it appeared likely that the Seacole statue campaign would be successful. A separate entity from the Nightingale Society (with overlapping membership) it has one particular goal, to expose the gross historical inaccuracies of the Seacole statue campaign. It will spring into action for the unveiling of the statue.

Anyone may nominate persons or institutions for the History Hoax Award, by email at or through the committee’s website at

Persons: Name the person and why they deserve the award, i.e., what gross misinformation the person has disseminated.

Institutions: Name the department or agency and say what gross misinformation it has disseminated. Institutions include government departments, nursing organizations, nursing unions, broadcasters, etc.

Newsletter 2016:2

From Lynn McDonald, project director · May 15, 2016

U.K. Trip

I am back from an excellent two months in the U.K., giving talks (the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Assoc., Oxford-Brookes and Leeds), meeting with people with Nightingale interests, and acquiring new material (from a private collection of Nightingale relatives and at the Bodleian Library).

Nursing Week

Nursing week was recognized widely in Canada. The Toronto Star, the largest circulation newspaper in Canada, announced its “Nightingale Award” winner, “Nurse of the Year” Jennifer Keeler. The Toronto Globe and Mail had a short, very positive, item in its “Moments in Time” for May 12. My letter to the editor added a few bits of information, published on May 14.

The Globe and Mail, 12 May 2016

Florence Nightingale is Born

by Carly Weeks

May 12, 1820: Florence Nightingale was determined to become a nurse, though it was seen at the time as an occupation of the poor and immoral. She trained in Germany before returning to England in the early 1850s as the Crimean War erupted. Amid public outcry over the treatment of injured British soldiers, Nightingale was dispatched to Istanbul. The military hospital was filthy, and infection eclipsed injury as a cause of death. She ordered a thorough cleaning and was credited with reducing the death rate by two-thirds—though some historians argue it increased due to contaminated water and unsanitary conditions. After the war, Nightingale spent her life advocating for better sanitation and a host of other reforms that would help modernize health care. By the time of her death in 1910, nursing was regarded as a noble profession.

Letters to the Editor

Re: Florence Nightingale is Born (May 12)

Nightingale deserves an assist for bringing down the high death rates of the Crimean War (1854-56), but she herself credited the work of the Sanitary and Supply Commissions sent out to improve conditions. Even the best of nursing care is not enough against overcrowding, lack of ventilation and fecal content in the water supply. The laundries and kitchens she started perhaps did more good than the nursing as such.

The leaders of those two commissions, importantly, became her allies after the war to ensure that such bad conditions did not recur.

She undoubtedly saved more lives by the reforms she and they got implemented after the war, by doing rigorous research on the mistakes and promoting thorough reforms. She was elected the first woman Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society for that work.

The first nursing school in the world was named after her, and paid for by donations to honour her for her work. Yes, she did modernize health care, greatly improved hospital safety and always related nursing to broader health care concerns.

Lynn McDonald, director
Collected Works of Florence Nightingale

New material

The last newsletter reported 2 new letters. Herewith another recently accessed, to Robert (later Sir) Morant, tutor to the crown prince of Siam, at a time of unrest. Interestingly, she asks about land tenure in Siam, a great issue in India, especially in times of famine.

Private London Oct 20/93

Dear Mr Morant You are
so often in our thoughts
that I must needs write
a word. This is one of
the rough passages of
life—for you & for Siam.
Our whole sympathies are
with you. And we wish
we could have if it were
but one day with you.
But there is a better
Comforter than we—the
Spirit of Wisdom, Power
& Love—nothing is too
hard for Him. He gives us
the Spirit of Love & of
Power & of a sound mind

There is rest in the heart
of duty—a deeper rest
than any other. And surely
that rest should be yours.

I cannot write much.
But that you should have
peace is the desire of
all our hearts. And you
will be blessed yet.

Believe me

your sincerely

F. Nightingale

Dear Mr Morant

I am above all anxious not to waste your
time. But if you could in a few words
tell me what the Land Tenure of Siam is –
I meant to ask you when I saw you last.
But we were so hurried. [This is only for my own

Is the Crown the Landlord, & nothing
between him & the peasant proprietors?
as in Bombay & part of Madras?

Or are there the great Zemindars as
in Bengal with the lands let & sublet to
an incredible number of intermediaries, before
it reaches the miserable ryot at the bottom?
Or what? I suppose there is nothing of Village Communities?
and is the money lending rife in Siam as in India?



Newsletter 2016:1

from Lynn McDonald, project director · April 24, 2016

Next Nightingale Society Meeting

The Nightingale Society is holding a meeting on May 11 2016 in London (9:00-11:00 a.m. at the Royal Statistical Society). People on this newsletter list who would like to attend, please say so (this is a breakfast meeting, so we need to know how many are attending; directions will be given):

Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Association

Several Nightingale scholars attended and gave papers at the large biennial meeting, held at the Royal College of Physicians in March 2016. Dr Laurie Gottlieb spoke on Nightingale and strengths-based nursing, Dr Hitoe Kanei on the ‘Nightingale KOMI Care Theory and System.’ Several other speakers mentioned Nightingale positively in their papers.

Nightingale Memorial at St Margaret’s Church, East Wellow

I will be attending, for the first time, the annual Commemoration Service on May 8. The vicar, the Rev Chris Pettet, is a new member of the Nightingale Society.

New material

New letters continue to appear, some of great interest. The latest are several at the Bodleian Library, Oxford — meaning that they have been there a long time, but only became accessible when the electronic catalogue was updated. Here is one to Robert (later Sir) Morant, tutor to the crown prince.

March 1893
Dear Mr Morant
We think of you in your
high calling of untold
difficulty — that of raising
a whole nation single-handed
— not as a Prometheus
chained to the rock, but
as one giving the sacred fire —
an awful honour truly —
And we pray you to take
care of your own health
& spirit, as you do of others —
spirits. To feed & to sleep
& to rest properly. What a
waste to cut short your
life which you must
prolong for all our sakes.
You stand alone — a great,
heroic self-sacrifice —
Don’t let it be a martyrdom.
We think of you & your
battle in Siam, as of
Henry V (the Greatest, simplest
noblest character in
Shakespear) & his Agincourt,
From which the old
chroniclers say, we may think
that his early death was
from dysentery, raving
to his sharing his soldiers —
food, their fatigues, too
much. Had he lived, he
might have been as great
in government in peace
as in war. Don’t be like
him in this, (When I feel
low in my mind, I take up
(Casselle’s) Shakespeare’s Henry V).
His whole life is one
simple ‘committing of his way’
to the Supreme Moral Governor
of the world.
Sir Harry Verney is well,
in his 92nd year, still bright
& active. Frederick Verney
is still suffering, I am sorry
to say, from Siamese fever.
But his spares himself a
great deal too little. He is
always working too hard.
She is the same genius,
Spirit of Good as ever.
Ralph went thro’ his Examn
for Harrow yesterday. He
was not well. We have not
yet heard the result.
Pardon me this scribble.
My health is worse — my work
heavy. But what one does
not do tires me more than
what one does.
Would that we could
give you satisfaction,
success, now such as is in
store for you; sympathy
we always give, the deepest
ever yours sincerely, in
high hope, Florence Nightingale

Another letter is to Lady Wedderburn, who provided Nightingale with information on the Rukhmabai case — both helped defend her. (Rukhmabai had been married as a child, and was taken to court by her husband when she refused to consummate the marriage — then an offence that could lead, under British law, to six months in prison! Rukhmabai came to England, qualified as a doctor and was a leading woman doctor in India.)

May 18/86
Dear Lady Wedderburn
I am so very glad
that you are able to obtain the
‘opinion’ For poor Rukhmabai
I hasten to return your nice
letter from her & also the
extract on the second trial
from the Bombay Gazette.
That she may yet be
successful I hope & trust
& that you may quite
recover strength is the earnest
wish of yours ever sincerely
F. Nightingale
Many thanks for the newspaper cuttings.

Newsletter 2015:5

from Lynn McDonald, project director · November 21, 2015

A Florence Nightingale Nurse In South Africa

Suzette Mafuna, a South African journalist now living in Toronto, contributes this note, at my request, on her mother:

Her funeral was packed with young and old nurses who came from all over South Africa to bury her. They each carried lit candles to symbolize the light that Florence Ivy Balakazi Nxumalo had brought into their lives. They wept bitterly as they paid tribute to their own Florence Nightingale, speaking admiringly about her dedication, her caring manner, her patience with staff and patients as well as her deep love for the nursing profession. As her coffin was lowered to the ground, the nurses blew the blaze of lit candles and planted them around the grave.

The deceased nurse was my mother who was named Florence Ivy Balakazi at birth. Nobody knows for sure why but the guess is that she was named by my grandmother’s employer, a wealthy Jewish woman who read books and who my grandmother worked for as a maid. When she finished school, my mother taught at kinder-garden but being just a teenager herself, she lacked the patience and discipline to deal with little children so she opted for nursing.

Following the necessary training, she gradually advanced from a junior nurse into a senior nurse where she blossomed. She worked hard, leaving home at 5am everyday to make it to work at 7am, on time to relieve the night duty nurse. Every day she took a 2hour train ride to work. Concerned that the night nurse should get off work as soon as possible, my mother never missed work nor was ever late for any shift. If she was working nights, she made sure that the patient’s report was ready timeously for the incoming nurse.

After my father died, my mother left us five children – ranging in age from 8 years to 1year old- in the care of relatives to further her nursing studies in a different town which had one of the few institutions that allowed for the training of black midwives.

She spent a year completing her midwifery studies and came back to practice as a senior nurse. The public and neighborhood referred to her as being “a doubly qualified nurse”.

It was only when we had grown up that my mother began to tell us stories about an internationally recognized nursing heroine called Florence Nightingale.

Lea Hurst visit, March 2016

Peter Kay, owner of Lea Hurst and a keen Nightingale supporter, has invited the Nightingale Society to meet at Lea Hurst. This is a wonderful invitation–he and his wife have restored the house as a family dwelling. (The Nightingale Society defends Nightingale when attacked — you may belong to it as well as the Collected Works list, so you may see this announcement twice.) Please let me know if you would like to join in on a visit to Lea Hurst, Derbyshire — easily accessible by train.

Proposed date March 16 or 17. 2016. The visit will take place only if enough interest is shown, and someone is willing to co-ordinate arrangements with Peter. Please indicate if you want to come, and if you can help:

People will be responsible for their own transportation costs. Lunch and tea will be provided. There will be both a visit to the splendid house, and a meeting, details to be worked out later. Lea Holloway is a beautiful part of the world.

Nightingale and Statistics

There is always something more to say! Herewith my new publication, “Statistics to Save Lives,” in an online journal. A local copy is available on the CWFN website:

Newsletter 2015:4

from Lynn McDonald, project director · September 22, 2015

“New” material

Every now and then “new” letters turn up, meaning old ones long buried in an archive or, in this case, a publication with no obvious connection to Nightingale. These two “new” letters are to Samuel Carter Hall, who, with his wife, writer Anna Maria Hall, worked to get the Nightingale Fund set up. S.C. Hall was on the original council.

The 1860 letter is, in effect, Nightingale’s report to him on the opening of the actual school, nearly five years after their work to establish the Fund began.

The 1887 letter, by which time Mrs Hall had died, is again a report back on the results of their efforts. Nightingale sent Hall her recent paper on nurse training, to show him “one of the fruits of your work, for now the training of nurses has extended to nearly every considerable hospital in the country.”

From William Henry Goss, The Life and Death of Llewellynn Jewitt, F,S.A., Etc. With Framgentary Memoirs of Some of His Famous Literary and Artistic Friends, Especially of Samuel Carter Hall, F.S.A., Etc. (London: Henry Gray 1889) pp 263-4

30 Old Burlington St., W. June 11th, 1860

My dear Sir I have no doubt that Mr Clough, the acting secretary for the ‘Nightingale Fund,’ has communicated with you as to the practicable measure which have been taken upon ‘Training Nurses.’ But I cannot bear that you, who have done somuch for us, should not hear from me about it–although I am unable to write to anyone else.

I enclose, for Mrs Hall, some copies of the Rules and Forms of ‘Entrance Certificate’ for the Probationers.

Is there any list of Subscribers to the ‘Fund’ which you could send me? I am aware that on the subject of the ‘Local Committees’ you have been communicated with. But I thought it might be satisfactory if I were to send these ‘rules’ to subscribers, especially country ladies. They might send us women to train.

I dare say you are aware that this is only a partial and tentative experiment, not employing the whole income of that ‘Fund.’ The “Council’ reserves to itself the opportunity of either extending this or, which I think is more probable, making to itself other centres of action.

With kindest regards to Mrs Hall, believe me to be,

my dear Sir,
ever sincerely and gratefully yours
Florence Nightingale


10, South Street, Park Lane, W. January 26th 1887

I have only heard, my dear Sir, from my sister, Lady Verney, of your request to me, and I make haste to comply with it. x x May peace and even joy attend you, for I know that you live constantly with the presence of her who is made perfect, as we trust we all shall be. God bless you and her. I hope that you are pretty well. May every blessing from the Almighty Loving Father attend you. I hope that you will excuse my writing so briefly, and in pencil. I am always under the severe pressure of work and illness. And how much work you have done for the world and for God.

I venture to enclose an article of mine on the ‘Training of Nurses,’ — not for your reading, for it is too technical–but as one of the fruits of your work, for now the training of nurses has extended to nearly every considerable hospital in the country.

Again, God bless you.

ever faithfully yours
Florence Nightingale

S.C. Hall Esq.

Publications on Nightingale

Two books published this year have chapters on Nightingale (both mine):

“Florence Nightingale: A Research-Based Approach to Health, Healthcare and Hospital Safety,” in Fran Collyer, ed. The Palgrave Handbook of Social Theory in Health, Illness and Medicine. London: Palgrave Macmillan 59-74. (This gives Nightingale’s views on research methodology, health and health care, hospitals, her work reforming workhouse infirmaries and the relationship between her social theory and that of major theorists of the time, notably Marx and Engels and the political economy school.)

“Florence Nightingale (1820-1910).” In Margaret Pabst Battin, ed. The Ethics of Suicide: Historical Sources. Oxford/New York. Oxford University Press 515-19. (This relates Nightingale’s views on suicide, with excerpts from her writing on it.)

Please let me know of new publications with Nightingale material.

U.K. Trip, Spring 2016

I plan to be in the U.K. for at least two months next spring, for two speaking engagements/conferences and work at the good old British Library. Please let me know of any Nightingale related events during that time (March-mid-May)

  1. Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Conference, London, (March 12-13 2016), on Nightingale’s mentoring of leading nurses.
  2. Oxford Brookes University (April 19 2016), an anniversary of nurse training in Oxford (my talk is on the stormy start to professional nursing at the Radcliffe Infirmary–difficulties in getting professional nursing started were typical).

Newsletter 2015:3

from Lynn McDonald, project director · May 12, 2015

May 12 is Nightingale’s birthday and celebrations are held
in many places. My own contribution is the posting of the massive
data files of her writings, correspondence and publications, the
background work to the 16 volumes of the Collected Works. They
will be on the website from May 12
. As well as the
transcriptions, there is a massive names files, with biographical
notes of all of her correspondents, and people mentioned in her
writing. Key to finding one’s way through all this material is the
Chronology, which lists for every day she wrote a letter or
received one, with details on the correspondent and the archival
source. (There is correspondence for most days, sometimes several
incoming and outgoing.) Have a look. Comments welcome.

Thanks to the archive director at the Ichan
School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, for sending me a scan
of the title page of their copy of Nightingale’s Notes
on Hospitals
. Nightingale gave the book, published in 1863,
to Dr John Croft in 1873 when they were working together on the
syllabus of lectures for the Nightingale School of Nursing. The
archive will be displaying the book, which provides a fine glimpse
of the collaboration. Nightingale called herself one of Croft’s
“warmest admirers” and “one of his most faithful comrades in one
branch of Hospital work, that of Nursing.”

FN’s iconic Crimean War coloured
appeared in The Times April 25 (thanks to
Professor Nigel Biggar for sending the copy) as “Six of the Best
Scientific Sketches.” Nice to see.

Montreal Jewish General Hospital

On May 12, I will be speaking to nurses at the Montreal Jewish
General Hospital, thanks to Dr Laurie Gottlieb,
scholar-in-residence, for the invitation. She and Dr Bruce Gottlieb
are working on “strengths-based nursing,” with origins in
Nightingale’s ideas, so this will be an opportunity to strategize
with them about how to integrate Nightingale into the nursing

For your amusement

"Royal Victoria Hospital 02" by Jeangagnon. Own work (via Wikimedia Commons)

Montreal’s landmark Royal Victoria Hospital (pictured above) was
vacated recently, a hospital on which Nightingale influenced the
design. It was pavilion-style, on Montreal’s “mountain,” with a
fabulous view. When it opened in the late 19th century, it was such
an impressive building that it became a tourist attraction. It is
now part of a “super hospital,” which Nightingale would have hated.
Herewith my letter-to-the-editor (published 28 April 2015) on
the story of the move.

Letter to the editor

Your story on the transfer of patients from
the grand old Royal Victoria Hospital (Let the great hospital
migration begin, Globe and Mail, April 25, 2015)
mentions Florence Nightingale as the “inspiration” for its
design. She was, in that it used her “pavilion” principle, which
featured opposing windows to promote cross-ventilation and
maximize sunlight in the wards. However, she had to fight with
the architect, Henry Saxon Snell, on numerous details, including
providing private rooms for the nurses. She thought his initial
ward units “the worst I ever saw.” He evidently amended the
plans, but prudently destroyed her comments. Amusingly, he even
offered to pay her for her advice. Nightingale joked about the
sum: recalling the organ grinder offered a sixpence to go away,
who said “I never goes away under a shilling.”

It seems that medical science, thanks to
discoveries in neuroplasticity, is now catching up on her
sunlight advice, able now to show how precisely it aids healing.

Newsletter 2015:2

from Lynn McDonald, project director · April 25, 2015

Nightingale Commemorative Service, Derby

The Commemorative Service in Derby will take place this year on May 16 at St Peter’s Church. The address will be given by Sir Stephen Moss, who was director of nursing at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary in the 1980s. This event has normally been held at Derby Cathedral, with a procession leaving from St Peter’s Church. St Peter’s now houses the fine Nightingale window, previously in the Derby Infirmary, and is a fine place for the commemoration itself. Thanks to John Rivers, CBE, chair of the Derby Hospitals NHS Trust, with Karen Hill, senior nurse, and the St Peter’s clergy for organizing this.

CNMF conference and call for abstracts

CNMF conference header text image

The 3rd Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Conference, from 12-13 March 2016 in London, is titled “Toward 2020: Celebrating nursing and midwifery leadership”. Abstracts may be submitted until 31 May 2015: see for details.

Plus ça change….Conditions in war hospitals

A Canadian newspaper story on the honouring of two Canadian nurses who died of disease in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign brings to mind the conditions Nightingale faced at her war hospital, 55 years earlier.

The nurses, Mary Frances Munro and Jessie B. Jagard, were the first Canadian nurses to die in war. They were stationed at the Third Canadian Stationary Hospital, on the Greek island of Lemnos.

A 1925 history of the Canadian Forces medical services said that the hospital had no sanitary provisions, a precarious water supply (one borrowed cart) and no pails for latrines. Food was scarce–inedible for patients; “dust and flies completed the distress.”

The exhausted and malnourished nurses picked up illnesses from the soldiers–dysentery and acute enteritis were rampant (Globe and Mail April 20, 2015).

The story further explains that when Vera Brittain, then a British war nurse, saw the graves in 1916 she wrote a poem about them: “The Sisters Buried at Lemnos,” of which two stanzas:

No armies threatened in that lonely station,
They fought not fire or sword, or ruthless foe,
But heat and hunger, sickness and privation,

And winter’s deathly chill and blinding snow.
Till mortal frailty could endure no longer
Disease’s ravages and climate’s power,
In body weak but spirit every stronger
Courageously they stayed to meet their hour.

Mark Bostridge notes the influence the discovery of the graves made on Brittain, who became a leading British pacifist, in writing her Testament of Youth, in his Vera Brittain and the First World War: The Story of Testament of Youth.

Nightingale, post-Crimea, said that nurse deaths were a good indication of hospital conditions. Indeed.

Newsletter 2015:1

from Lynn McDonald, project director · January 8, 2015

Home birth at Lea Hurst

Congratulations to Jenny and Peter Kay on the birth of daughter Isabel Florence, at their home, Lea Hurst, on January 6, possibly the first birth there?? Mother and child are doing well, the exhausted father reports. Isabel Florence joins brother George (15 months) and older brother CJ and sister Kylie.

Nightingale and Australia

Australian newspaper coverage of Nightingale’s work was extensive. Some Australian papers had London correspondents, and many reprinted stories from British newspapers.

Australians were important contributors to the “Nightingale Fund” set up during the Crimean War, which then financed the Nightingale School at St Thomas’ Hospital, opened in 1860. All this got ample coverage, as did the eventual sending of nurses from the school to start professional nursing in Sydney in 1867.

In 1863 Nightingale’s papers on death rates in native colonial schools and hospitals were read at the Social Science Congress in Edinburgh. A Times story reported:

“Prince Alfred spent an hour or two in the afternoon in attending the meetings, and in particular that of Public Health, in which two papers of Miss Nightingale were read on ‘Colonial Schools and Hospitals.’ (13 October 1863 4B)

Prince Alfred, the duke of Edinburgh, was the son of Queen Victoria. The story continues:

The subject of the first was “Sanitary Statistics of Native Colonial Schools,” and the second, “Statistics of Native Hospitals and Causes of Disappearance of Native Races.”… In the opening of the first paper, Miss Nightingale stated that it was her object to show that statistics capable of affording complete practical results when wanted had scarcely made a beginning in the colonies, and to show that, when the Colonial Office, with great labour and no little cost, and collected, and she had reduced these materials, they were incapable of giving all the beneficial information expected.

The story gives details of Nightingale’s frustration with the data collected, but makes it clear that enough material was available to show that the sickness and death rates of aboriginal people in “native colonial schools and hospitals” were twice what they should be. She tried to get the Colonial Office to tackle the problem, and collect data routinely to ascertain success, but was unsuccessful.

Prince Alfred, who listened to the papers, visited Australia in 1867 as a naval officer, where he was the victim of an assassination attempt. He survived, nursed at Government House by the first trained nurses sent to Australia, by Nightingale!

Australian newspapers gave substantial coverage to the sending of nurses to Sydney in 1867. The process is related in Extending Nursing, vol. 13 in the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale. However, one important letter was missed (it does not seem to be in any archive), but was published by The Empire, a Sydney newspaper. The letter was to Captain Mayne, the New South Wales colonial agent in London (evidently he received a copy of the letter sent to Nightingale before she got her own–letters were typically months in arriving).

“Miss Florence Nightingale to the Colonial Agent General”
21 November 1866 p. 8

35 South Street
Park Lane, London W.
23rd September 1866

Sir: I am extremely obliged to you for so promptly informing me of what the government of New South Wales desire of me.

Would you kindly assure the Colonial Secretary that I am extremely interested in what he proposes to do, and that he may depend upon my trying to assist him to the utmost of my power. The plan which they propose is most desirable and praiseworthy, viz., to establish in the Sydney Infirmary a Training School for Hospital Nurses for the colony. The object is most important, and the colonial government will do immense good by so wise a measure. Whatever my humble efforts can do to second the plan shall be done, as I need scarcely assure the secretary of the colony. I shall, of course, do myself the honour of answering his letter as soon as I see what can be done.

(I have not yet received any communication on the subject but yours.)

Now what can be done is the first question. We have (I am afraid I can safely assert) no such training “sisters” ready. If we had, they would already have been engaged and employed. Our supply is so very much below the demand, even in England, that the matrons and nurses whom we train are generally engaged sometime before their period of training is completed.

It would be easy to recommend persons partially unknown and untrained. But this we have never done.

We prefer it, when governments or institutions send us persons chosen by themselves, to train for them. But this, it appears, is not the plan of the Government of New South Wales, nor perhaps is it desirable from so far.

Having shortly explained my difficulties, I would now propose that you should kindly call yourself on Mrs Wardroper, St Thomas’ Hospital, Newington, S.

I have already written to her explaining the desire of the New South Wales secretary, and leading her to expect your call. She is the valued superintendent of our training school, and matron of the hospital of St Thomas.

It is desirable that all the four “sisters” should come from the same training. When you have had your conversation with Mrs Wardroper, and when we have further communicated, I shall be able to see my way better. I earnestly desire this should succeed, but I have other resources if this should fail.

I am afraid I must prepare you that the matter will not march so fast as we desire it, or as the colonial government expects it. For I am nearly positive, as I have said, that no four such persons as we ought to recommend are ready, disengaged, but I will now only add that I will hasten the matter by every means in my power, if by a personal interview with you, when I return to London, as I conclude that you are a resident here, I shall be glad, as this is a matter very near my heart, and I can say, with great truth, that I am as eager for its success as those who have proposed it. I believe, however, that I can do everything by correspondence and by putting yourself in personal communication with Mrs Wardroper, or with others.

Pray believe me your faithful servant

Florence Nightingale
Any communication to the above address is forwarded to me immediately if not there, F.N.

Newsletter 2014:7

from Lynn McDonald, project director · November 12, 2014

U.K. Visit October-November 2014

I am back from a most interesting and useful trip to the U.K. Many thanks to all those who attended meetings, formal and informal, provided information and help. If you are not on the Nightingale Society email list, and want to see more, you can join the list (and read recent issues) at

Gresham College Lecture

On October 30 2014, I gave a lecture at Gresham College, the oldest adult education institution in the world, established 1597, at an event co-sponsored with the British Society for the History of Mathematics.

Dr Eileen Magnello gave the (official) Gresham Lecture at this event, on Karl Pearson, a statistician who thought highly of Nightingale’s statistical work.

My lecture was “Florence Nightingale and her Crimean War Statistics: Lessons for Public Administration, Hospital Safety and Nursing” (see YouTube video here). It was an opportunity to show how Nightingale first learned the lessons of the Crimean War (with colleague Dr John Sutherland, head of the Sanitary Commission) and applied them later, with Sidney Herbert, secretary for war, and Dr Sutherland as her major collaborators. This was also an opportunity to go well past the material reported in Florence Nightingale on the Crimean War (volume 14 in the Collected Works).

A chart shows how the French Army death rates went up in the second winter of the war, although there was no fighting! British Army death rates went down—thanks especially to the work of the Sanitary Commission.

Britain made great changes in public administration in the post-Crimean years. Nightingale worked on them, and promoted safer hospital design as well as starting the first secular training school for nurses. Death rates went down in army hospitals and barracks after the war.

The lecture made no mention of Mary Seacole, the Jamaican businesswoman now actively promoted as the replacement of Nightingale as the founder of nursing and Crimean War heroine.

The first question after my lecture, however was why I had not discussed her work, as she had been “in charge of the nursing of the Crimean War”! The questioner wondered how Nightingale’s standards of hygiene compared with hers, an impossible question since Mrs Seacole ran no hospital and conducted no nursing (she ran in effect a club for officers, selling fine wines, champagne, food and catering their dinner parties). It was a good opportunity to make these points, but distressing to see how far the misinformation campaign has succeeded.

The claim this questioner made was a new one, for typically Nightingale is accused of refusing to employ Mrs Seacole, who is said to have then set up her own hospital (which she never did). Now Seacole is asserted to have been the superintendent of nursing for the British Army, Nightingale’s superior.

New Nightingale Letter

New letters continue to appear, this one on relief for orphans after the Franco-Prussian War. It was initially published in the New York Tribune, the progressive newspaper for which Karl Marx wrote columns. Then it appeared in the Huddersfield Chronicle (15 July 1871) and other British newspapers. Nightingale started receiving considerable attention in the U.S. after the Crimean War, and continued to. If anyone knows who was the “friend in Brooklyn” who contacted Nightingale, please say!

The New York Tribune writes, “Florence Nightingale, writing to a friend in Brooklyn in acknowledgment of a certificate of honorary membership in a Missionary Society, speaks in very feeling terms of the generous contributions made in England and the United States to alleviate the sufferings caused by the late war between Germany and France. She says:

I am sure it will please your society to learn (for are we not all brothers and sisters in the United States and in Old England—of one family and of one tongue?) how their English relations, the subjects of our Queen, in all climates and in all longitudes—not by any means only the rich but the whole mass of hard-working, honest, frugal people—have contributed every penny they could so ill spare. Women have given the very shoes off their feet, the very suppers out of their children’s mouths, to the poor sufferers in this awful war—not of their own creed—not of their own thinking or way of living at all—but in the freest spirit of Christian charity, all have given, every man, woman and child above pauperism. So general a collection among the “working classes” never has been, not even for our own Patriotic Fund. Poor congregations of all kinds: “Puritan chapels in my own dear hills of Derbyshire, national schools, factories, poor negro congregations in the West Indies; in London, ragged-school children who, having nothing to give, gave up their only feast in the year, that the money might be applied to the orphans in the war, “who want it more than we.” London dissenting congregations, without a single rich member, who sent their large collections; poor working women’s parties, who made up warm clothing for the sufferers int hat frightful winter campaign and refused to be paid for it, and then the children, making their little birthday presents for the “Lord Christ,” for Him to give to the children made homeless and well-nigh hopeless by the war.”

Newsletter 2014:6

from Lynn McDonald, project director · September 24, 2014

London again

I will be in London October 2 to November 4 on the Nightingale project. One event is giving a public lecture at Gresham College, on October 20: Florence Nightingale and her Crimean War Statistics: Lessons for Hospital Safety, Public Administration and Nursing. Gresham College was founded in 1597, in effect the first institution to provide adult education. The Gresham Lecturer this year is science historian Dr Eileen Magnello, who is speaking on statistician Karl Pearson (himself a fan of Florence Nightingales).

On the trip I will also be meeting with Derby city councilors–about celebrating Nightingales bicentenary, 2020– and for a meeting of the Nightingale Society. Anyone on this email list who does not get the (occasional) emails of the Nightingale Society, and would like to, please notify

Anyone who would like to meet re any Nightingale interests, please contact me at the same email address.

Nightingale materials

New letters, only a few, continue to turn up, thanks to people sending them in to me. Another source I have found to be useful is the Times newspaper electronic archives. They sometimes print letters not otherwise known of. They are a source also for what Nightingale did, sometimes not otherwise known of. For example, one story reported her heading an 1878 petition, with suffragist Helen Taylor (stepdaughter of John Stuart Mill) for a Bill for removing Electoral Disabilities of Women. She signed the initial one, and here again is on the list. In 1878 Nightingale joined with 2000 on an address to recognize the University of Londons acceptance of women as students (it was the first British university to graduate women, in the 1880s).

A wonderful story from the Crimean War in 1856 (after the fighting was over) reported that the lectures for soldiers Nightingale got started were well attended, 400 at one, which featured a magic lantern show (their PowerPoint); Nightingale gave the magic lantern.

Franklin Expedition

Canadians were pleased at the finding of one of the two sunken ships of the Franklin Expedition, which disappeared on an attempt to find the Northwest Passage. Yes, there is a Nightingale connection. Lady Franklin, who spearheaded the repeated attempts to rescue her husband and ships (they left England in 1845), wrote Mr Bracebridge when Nightingale, with the Bracebridges, were about to leave for the Crimean War:

“She has now found her right vocation and I feel sure it will be a blessed one. There was a time when I should have liked to be her second, but her example will arouse many dormant energies in womens minds.”

Lady Franklin and her sister Lady Simpkinson sent donations for the nurses, via the sisters of St Johns House, Queen Square.

Nightingale’s cousin Benjamin Leigh Smith himself took part in one of the unsuccessful voyages to try to find the Franklin ships (by then too late for rescue). One of the ships he was on sank, but he and others survived. Nightingale was not only fond of Benjamin, but his dog Bob, who helped hunt game for the stranded survivors. Both Benjamin and Bob were invited to visit to tell of the experience.


Newsletter 2014:5

from Lynn McDonald, project director · August 19, 2014

Let your library know…

Summer Sale! The publisher of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale has a sale on for the whole set, at the reduced rate of $1200. Let your library know if it does not already have the volumes (available in print and ebook).

New items by Nightingale

Every now and then new letters (that is, new to me) turn up in printed sources–with no original known of. Here are two published in the New York Times, as part of a full-page spread on Nightingale, with considerable (and quite accurate) coverage of her life and work during the Crimean War. The first is similar to a known letter to Sidney Herbert (in the Collected Works vol 12) on the formation of the Nightingale School. It shows that, as for her going to the Crimean War in the first place, there was correspondence with both Mr and Mrs Herbert (the role of wives is often neglected!).

Scutari Barrack Hospital
Jan 6 1856

Dear Mrs Herbert: In answer to your letter (which followed me to the Crimea and back to Scutari) proposing to me undertaking of a training school for nurses, I will first beg to say that it is impossible for me to express what I have felt in regard to the sympathy and confidence shewn to me by the originators and supporters of this scheme. Exposed as a I am to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, in a field of action in which the work is new, complicated and distinct from many who sit in judgment upon it–it is, indeed, an abiding support to have such sympathy and such appreciation brought home to me in the midst of labor and difficulties all but overpowering. I must add, however, that my present work is such as I would never desert for any other, so long as I see room to believe that what I may do here is unfinished. May I then beg you to express to the Committee that I accept their proposal, providing that I may do so on their understanding of this great uncertainty, as to when it will be possible for me to carry it out.

Believe me to be yours very truly
Florence Nightingale

The second letter was to the Abbé Legendre, almoner at a water cure hospital for soldiers, Bourbonne-les-bains, run by a charity, Oeuvre de Notre Dame d’Orient. The intermediary was Lady Fox Strangways, widow of the general killed at Inkermann and buried on Cathcart’s Hill. It shows Nightingale’s high regard for the French nuns who nursed during the war. Clearly she had visited their hospitals, but where and when is not known as there is no surviving correspondence on the subject.

Sir, I feel the warmest sympathy with you in the touching object of your work, and I am happy to join in it to the limited extent which my own engagements allow. I received, too, from the excellent religious ladies who were attached to the French army in the West so many tokens of their friendship, they gave me such assistance with such entire self-denial and lightened my hard work int he hospitals with so much devotedness that I shall always seek any opportunity of showing my gratitude in France, and to her brave children, whom I have been taught by those ladies to love and respect.

I am, Sir, yours truly
Florence Nightingale

One page of a letter also turned up on a manuscript sales website with praise for the Sardinian general in the Crimean War.

Let me know, please, if strange bits and pieces turn up on your screen!

Nightingale letters digitization

The Florence Nightingale Museum announces the availability of 1900 original Nightingale (handwritten) letters, a collaborative project with several archives, with more to come. Congratulations to all! The letters are available at


Newsletter 2014:4

from Lynn McDonald, project director · 29 June, 2014

UK Trip

I have just returned from a month in the UK on the (academic) Nightingale project, and work with colleagues in the Nightingale Society (which defends Nightingale from attacks, which, alas, continue). Apart from archive work, at the British Library (my club!) I enjoyed some excellent exchanges with people working on Nightingale material, especially her statistics.

Derby Cathedral Service and Plaque

Derby Cathedral held its annual Nightingale service in Nurses’ Week. This year’s was special with the blessing of a fine Nightingale plaque recently installed in the cathedral. It says:

To commemorate the life of
Florence Nightingale
Born into a Derbyshire Family
Heroine of the Crimean War
Founder of the nursing profession
Pioneer of public health care
Reformer of army medical services
Guided by her faith in God.

It was a fine day in Derby. Nurses processed to the cathedral in large numbers. The choir of the Royal Derbyshire Hospital sang. Congratulations to the dean, Dr John Davies, and the chair of the Derbyshire Florence Nightingale Association, John Rivers, CBE, for their excellent work organizing this event. I gave the address, which is available on the website.

Lea Hurst

Many over the years will have visited Lea Hurst, the Nightingales’ Derbyshire home. When I saw it, some years ago, it was a nursing home. It is now again privately owned, and thoroughly renovated (up-to-date electricity and plumbing). What a treat to see it, with a family in residence that appreciates it!

I was a guest at the new owners’ first dinner party, in the Nightingales’ dining room, the other guests all also people with strong Nightingale connections. We started with bubbly on the terrace (a lovely evening, with striking views in every direction). Who said that Nightingale research can’t be fun?

Nightingale Material

New material, in some quantities, continues to appear. One I picked up recently is a letter that appeared in the New York Herald in 1884, which shows the influence of the Crimean War, and the concerted work to clean up the hospitals at it, on Nightingale all those decades later. It also shows the continued American interest in her work, and her desire that America, as well as England, “set its house in order.” Vintage Nightingale.

Practical Advice in View of the Rapid Spread of Cholera: ‘Scavenge, Scavenge, Scavenge,’” The Sanitarian, ed., Agrippa Nelson Bell, vol 13 114-15.

Paris, July 18 1884

In reply to an inquiry, Miss Florence Nightingale, the Crimean heroine, kindly sends the following to the New York Herald:

Sir I beg to reply to your note asking for ‘practical advice in view of the rapid spread of cholera.’

That our whole experience in India, where cholera is never wholly absent, tends to prove—nay, actually does prove—that cholera is not communicable from person to person.

That the disease cannot be ascribed to ‘somebody else,’ that is, that the sick do not manufacture a ‘special poison’ which causes the disease.

That cholera is a local disease—an epidemic affecting localities, and there depending on pollution of earth, air and water and buildings.

That the isolation of the sick cannot stop the disease, nor quarantine, nor cordons, nor the like. These, indeed, may tend fatally to aggravate the disease, directly and indirectly , by turning away our attention from the only measures which can stop it.

That the only preventive is to put the earth, air and water and buildings into a healthy state by scavenging, limewashing and every kind of sanitary work, and, if cholera does come, to move the people from the places where the disease has broken out and then to cleanse.

Persons about cholera patients do not ‘catch’ the disease from the sick any more than cases of poisoning ‘infect’ others. If a number of persons have been poisoned, say by arsenic put by mistake into food, it is because they have each swallowed the arsenic. It is not because they have taken ‘it,’ the ‘mysterious influence’ of one another.

In looking sadly at Egypt—Egypt where cholera did not begin anywhere along the route from India to Europe, but at Dametta, where no ship and no passenger ever stops, and where the dreadful insanity condition of the place fully accounts for any outbreak of cholera—in sorrowfully looking at Egypt and at Europe now, one might almost say that it is this doctrine of a special poison emanating from the sick man which it is thought can be carried in a package, that has (mentally ) ‘poisoned’ us. People will soon believe that you can take cholera by taking railway ticket. They speak as if the only reason against enforcing quarantine were, not that it is an impossibility and an absurdity to stop disease in this way, but that it is impossible to enforce quarantine. ‘If only we could,’ they say, ‘all would be well.’

Vigorously enforce sanitary measures, but with judgment, e.g., scavenge, scavenge, scavenge; wash, cleanse and limewash; remove all putrid human refuse from privies and cesspits and cesspools and dustbins; look to stables and cowsheds and pigsties; look to common lodginghouses and crowded places, dirty houses and yards. ‘Set your house in order’ in all ways sanitary and hygienic, according to the conditions of the place, and ‘all will be well.’

I beg to send you the best thing that has been written upon the subject—where also what can be said about quarantine is fully stated in the best manner—the lecture by Dr Cunningham, sanitary commissioner with the Government of India, on the ‘Sanitary Lessons of Indian Epidemics,’ at the beginning of the Medical Times, which I enclose.

The real danger to be feared is in blaming somebody else and not our own selves for such an epidemic visitation. As a matter of fact, if the disease attacks our neighbors we ourselves are already liable to it. To trust for protection to stopping intercourse would be just as rational as to try to sweep back an incoming flood instead of getting out of its way.

With the most earnest wish that America, as well as England, may ‘set her house in order,’ and so defy cholera and turn its appearance elsewhere into a blessing, pray, believe me

ever her and your faithful servant

Florence Nightingale


Newsletter 2014:3

from Lynn McDonald, project director · 12 May, 2014

UK Trip

I will be London for four weeks beginning May 13 2014, with two days of that time in Derby and Lea, Holloway (Lea Hurst, the original Nightingale home) and look forward to meeting with colleagues there.

New Publication

See the new article on Nightingale in a special issue on Women: Struggle against Prevailing Standards, in Groniek, a publication, in Dutch and English, of the University of Groningen. The English version can be seen in the short papers section of the CWFN website.

Nightingale and Seacole. A new book, Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth includes a chapter on the Crimean War, using sources other than Nightingale or Seacole (mainly army doctors, officers and journalists) and one on Nightingale (with material not already published in the Collected Works). More information on this is available on the website of the Nightingale Society.

Communications expert Marshall McLuhan (the global village, the medium is the message) is one of the many famous persons who had interesting views on Nightingale. In a chapter on the telegraph, in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, he said:

Florence Nightingale…wealthy and refined member of the powerful new English group engendered by industrial power, began to pick up human-distress signals as a young lady. They were quite undecipherable at first. They upset her entire way of life, and couldnt be adjusted to her image of parents or friends or suitors. It was sheer genius that enabled her to translate the new diffused anxiety and dread of life into the idea of deep human involvement and hospital reform. She began to think, as well as to live, her time, and she discovered the new formula for the electronic age: Medicare.

Americans, take note!

Newsletter 2014:2

from Lynn McDonald, project director · 8 April, 2014

New material by Nightingale

Thanks to a friend, Diane Marshall, and a nursing colleague of hers, Adrianne Sequeir, for alerting me to the existence of Nightingale letters I had not seen before, held at Boston College, but the source that alerted Adrianne was a newspaper story. Do please alert me if you come across Nightingale letters in an unexpected place.

Nightingale kept letters to her by nurses, but many by her to them have disappeared. These letters are by Nightingale to Alice Fisher, then matron at Addenbrooke’s, Cambridge, who later introduced trained nursing to the Philadelphia Blockley Hospital.

Question: There used to be a “Florence Nightingale Oration” in the U.K., given by a prominent person and published in the British Journal of Nursing. Does anyone know if these still take place in some fashion? Or when they stopped?

Nightingale and Irish Nursing

There is a new article on Nightingale and Irish nursing, recently published (online) in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. A text version can be seen on the Collected Works website at nursing/irish-nursing.htm.

It is a rebuttal of numerous articles and chapters by Therese Meehan which claim that Nightingale derived key ideas on nursing from the Irish Sisters of Mercy, during the Crimean War, and that they had pioneered high quality hospital nursing long before her (in fact, as the article shows, the nuns visited the sick to urge them to repentance and a good confession, for their spiritual well-being).

U.K. Trip

I will be in London, mainly, in May—early June on the project. On May 17 I will give the address at Derby Cathedral at its annual Nightingale service, at which this year they are also unveiling a plaque honouring Nightingale. I will be happy to meet with anybody while in the U.K. on Nightingale matters: let me know!

Newsletter 2014:1

from Lynn McDonald, project director · 12 February, 2014

Dr Lynn McDonald: short talks on Nightingale on YouTube


I have been persuaded to make YouTubes. Herewith a link to a short one (3 min 26 sec) titled Ministering Angel of the Crimean War. More videos will follow, and your comments are welcome.

Students working on Nightingale

I was pleased to hear from a doctoral student working on Nightingale and mathematics. Please tell any graduate students working on Nightingale that I am often able to provide help on sources for them, from my enormous data base.

New journal articles on Nightingale

You may be interested in two articles comparing Nightingale’s work with that of Mary Seacole: one in November in the peer-reviewed Journal of Advanced Nursing, the first article (I know of) in a nursing journal to give accurate coverage. It includes a Timeline, with succinct entries on major contributions by Nightingale to nursing from over her lifetime. A PDF of the article can be accessed here.

Second, “Wonderful Adventures–How did Mary Seacole come to be viewed as a Pioneer of Modern Nursing?” in the Times Literary Supplement (6 December 2013) . See the article and replies here.

Nipissing University, School of Nursing

Many thanks to Dr Aroha Page and Dr Lorraine Carter for the invitation to speak to classes in the nursing faculty, and in the hospital and for the wider North Bay (Ontario) community.

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