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).
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: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_332yjf93SUiIxWhgyx0GHQ (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 (GEDInfp.com), 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: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/flos-200th-birthday-virtual-party-tickets-104090328976. 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
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 mathsteams.org.
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!
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.
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
- 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
- 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
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:
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,
- 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.
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).
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 email@example.com
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.
From Lynn McDonald, project director · March 2, 2018
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 firstname.lastname@example.org — 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
The 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.
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).
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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!
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 email@example.com (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.
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.
From Lynn McDonald, project director · May 15, 2016
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 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
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.
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): firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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.
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.)
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: email@example.com
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: https://cwfn.uoguelph.ca/short-papers-excerpts/statistics-to-save-lives/.
from Lynn McDonald, project director · September 22, 2015
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
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)
- Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Conference, London, (March 12-13 2016), on Nightingale’s mentoring of leading nurses.
- 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).
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
charts 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
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.
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
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 http://www.commonwealthnurses.org/conference2016/Abstract.html 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.
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
Any communication to the above address is forwarded to me immediately if not there, F.N.
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 http://nightingalesociety.com/newsletter.
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.”
from Lynn McDonald, project director · September 24, 2014
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who would like to meet re any Nightingale interests, please contact me at the same email address.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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 http://hgar-srv3.bu.edu/web/florence-nightingale/.
from Lynn McDonald, project director · 29 June, 2014
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:
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.
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?
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.
from Lynn McDonald, project director · 12 May, 2014
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.
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!
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).
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! email@example.com.
from Lynn McDonald, project director · 12 February, 2014
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.