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Published reviews

Reviews of Collected Works volumes

Volume 1, Life and Family

“This is the product of rigorous scholarship, of meticulous historical research and a labour of love….Nightingale’s work is valued by various communities: nursing, military medicine, British Army reform, public health, and so on. Whoever approaches these and other topics in the Victorian era must attend to Miss Nightingale. These splendid print and electronic volumes will markedly facilitate that attention.”

— Robert J.T. Joy, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (emeritus), Bethesda. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 121 (2005):437-38.

“This is an extraordinary collection….We are all indebted to Professor McDonald and her team for taking on this monumental task. We look forward to the progressive release of the volumes and to the ongoing work of Nightingale scholars around the world that will be facilitated by having this huge resource available.”

— Jocelyn Keith, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Nursing Inquiry 11,3 206-07.

“Here is a scholarly revelation of a Florence Nightingale you realise you really haven’t known. Professor Lynn McDonald’s outline of her life is a comprehensive and corrective study….The clear printing and presentation of this book, with its unobtrusive but scholarly editing, makes it a pleasure to read as well.”

— Lawrence Dopson, International History of Nursing Journal 7, 3:99.

Wilfrid Laurier University Press has embarked on a major undertaking to publish for the first time the collected works of Florence Nightingale…..In conception and execution, this promises to be an ambitious and immensely valuable scholarly venture….All in all the unfolding of this mammoth project is keenly anticipated.”

— Peter Burroughs, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. (January 2003):123-24.

Volume 6, Public Health Care

“The series is potentially very important for the study of Victorian gender and women’s history….Historians of medicine, nursing and public health will of course find the writings of Nightingale rich. The volume generally is very accessible as a research resource.”

— Alison Bashford, Nursing Inquiry. 12,1 (2005)

“There are gems in this huge volume that will help us rethink Nightingale. She emerges as a more critical statistician than is often recognized.”

— Christopher Hamlin, University of Notre Dame, Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 79 (2005):584-95.

“For this series, original material was gathered from over 180 archives and private collections. Available for the first time in years in print…it’s a truly impressive body of work.”

— Doris Anderson. Herizons (winter 2005):39.

Volume 7, European Travels

“Many of the writings in this outstanding series have never before been published; now for the first time they are available to any and all interested in researching the perspective, experiences and character of a legend. Highly recommended for libraries and reference or biography shelves. ”

The Bookwatch (January 2005).

Volume 8, Women

“The only word that can adequately describe this book is astonishing….This series is an essential addition to any serious nursing history collection.”

— Francis Biley, Cardiff University, Nursing Standard 20, 24 (22 February 2006):36.

“This magnificent and devoted effort should be in every major research library or any library with collections on the changing role of women….Highly recommended.”

— V.L. Bullough, emeritus, California State University, Northridge, in Choice: Current Review for Academic Libraries. 43, 09 (May 2006).

Volume 11: Suggestions for Thought

Fenwick, Gillian. Review of Vol. 11: Suggestions for Thought. University of Toronto Quarterly 80,2 (Spring 2011):361-62.

(on volumes 1–3)

“This is an academic project of the highest importance and integrity. It will have an impact on the work of scholars far beyond the immediate field of health history…The editing of these volumes is exemplary. Every reference has been followed up….On every page there are biblical allusions, which are faithfully identified. Important personalities are accorded short biographies….This project makes a major contribution to scholarship which will be of permanent value.”

— Helen Mathers, University of Sheffield. Journal of Ecclesiastical Review (October 2003):35.

“There is no doubt that…Nightingale would be considered heterodox in her time, but reading her biblical annotations and reflections on her faith in her diaries results in the picture of a devout, self-reflective believer. Lynn McDonald has done the academic community invaluable service in bringing together at long last the collected works of this shaper of history.”

— Christiana de Groot, Calvin Theological Journal 38,1 (2003):180-82.

“When complete, the Collected Works will allow us to see for the first time the full complexity of this extraordinary and multifaceted woman. It will be a tool of enormous value not only to Nightingale scholars and biographers, but also to historians of a wide variety of aspects of Victorian society: war, the army, public health, nursing, religion, India, women’s issues and so on.”

— Mark Bostridge, “Lady of the Letter,” Times Literary Supplement (10 January 2003):6.

“McDonald rightly seeks to…restore Nightingale to history as a vitally engaged social and political agent, not a stereotype of past scholarly assessments….The Nightingale of these volumes is the complex, compelling figure McDonald claims her to be…This is a prodigious undertaking. McDonald and her editorial team are to be commended for so ambitious and successfully realized a project.”

— Susan Hamilton, University of Toronto Quarterly. 73, 1 (winter 2003/4):242-44.

(on volumes 2 and 3)

“These volumes are fully annotated and have excellent and useful editorial introductions to the various sections….Even a selective reading of these dense volumes leaves a solid impression of Florence Nightingale as a person to whom God, faith and aspects of religion were matters of daily concern and intellectual attention. They provide a more complete understanding of this complex woman, extending our appreciation of her much beyond the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ legend.”

— Robert J.T. Joy, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (emeritus), Bethesda. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 121 (2005):190-91.

(on volumes 4 and 5)

[Nightingale’s] descriptions of the Upper Nile, the Valley of the Kings, the royal tombs and so on are precise, informed by her well-read mind and far more than the usual tourist gushing. She describes what she sees, relates it to general history, and interprets some of her observations with religious references. Her letters home are marvelous descriptions of an Egypt…. The maturity of her observations, from architecture to art to history, to eating dog, are perceptive and unusual…and sometimes lyrical.

Nightingale is observed at her best (in my opinion) in the long section of “Politics.” She writes sometimes with affection, sometimes acerbically, but always with informed analysis. She understood the problems of public administration and polity (or lack of it)…. She was against the imperialist expansion of the day which did not bring benefits to the “natives.”….A wonderful assembly of miscellaneous correspondence with “political notables”, from the queen to prime ministers, viceroys, generals and sundry politicians and “influentials” (such as Mill and Chadwick) is presented….This volume, like its predecessors, is fully annotated, excellently edited and published.

— Robert J.T. Joy, emeritus, Uniformed Services, University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda.

(on volumes 4–6)

“Lynn McDonald’s editing of Volumes Four to Six…are models of precision and exhaustive in their treatment, and the range of the material she presents…is highly impressive….Lynn McDonald is tireless, methodical and extremely effective, like Nightingale herself.”

— Mark Bostridge, “No Favourite Woman.” Times Literary Supplement. (18 November 2005):6:

(on volumes 6–8)

“Volume 6 offers a comprehensive look at the important contributions Nightingale made to public health care….The editorial support McDonald gives to the material makes Nightingale’s work accessible to non-specialists.

Volume 7 presents letters Nightingale wrote during her travels in Europe, Ireland and Britain. Early correspondence shows a young woman who was driven, yet curious and lighthearted. letters expressing her political opinions are cleverly intermixed with detailed descriptions of acquaintances, dances, operas and art.

[In Volume 8] McDonald provides excellent context for the problems faced by birthing women in this period and skilfully demonstrates that Nightingale did not abandon improved maternity care, despite the misinformed accusations by some historians.

—Bonnie J. White, Canadian Book Review Annual

(on the series)

“Nightingale interacted with many political notables that the Collected Works should be of interest to a broad range of readers. Scholarship to date has been over dependent on secondary sources….It is hoped that The Collected Works, containing material from 200 or so archives and private collections worldwide, will prompt scholarly work and writing on all areas of her life.”

— “The First Professional.” Nursing Management. 10, 6.

Florence Nightingale at First Hand

“While McDonald’s biography [Florence Nightingale at First Hand] is useful, pointed and, at just 197 pages, accessible, her much greater achievement lies in the meticulous editing of Nightingale’s Suggestions for Thought, along with the many other and volumes of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale. In this regard the Nightingale project ranks with both the Gladstone diaries and the Disraeli letters as a major undertaking in the field of Victorian-era scholarship and there is of surpassing value to historians of the period, as well as to general readers.”

—Faught, C. Brad. Review of Florence Nightingale at First Hand and vol. 8. Anglican and Episcopal History 81,1 (March 2012):90-92

“The image of Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, fades into a fuzzy stereotype, brightens, then fades again with the passing decades and changing status of women.

Since the 1950s, when nurses were forced into a servile role in relation to male doctors, Nightingale has often taken the rap for this demeaning concept of the nursing profession. Nothing could be further from the truth, and, luckily, Canada has the world’s leading expert on Nightingale’s work and thought to set the record straight.

Lynn McDonald goes straight to the original sources—Nightingale’s letters, diaries and articles—in this compact book written to mark the centenary of her death in 1910 at the age of 90.

An upper-class Englishwoman, a devout Christian and a lifelong celibate, Nightingale makes an easy target for careless debunkers. In fact, she was an astonishingly tough, brilliant and open-minded campaigner for progressive social and economic change. A liberal (today she would be a social democrat), she ardently opposed the cold-hearted laissez-faire policies that dominated in her day and were to return a century later with Margaret Thatcher.

McDonald’s prose is crisp and authoritative. She illuminates the astonishing scope of Nightingale’s genius and her prolific work for the public good. Far from the sentimental image that is often painted of her, Nightingale was arduously pursuing soldiers’ welfare. She was breathtakingly forthright, for a Victorian, in describing the dysentery epidemic during the Crimean War, the burst pipes and the “liquid feces” covering the bathroom and hall floors to the depth of an inch (“and the men have no slippers”).

Nightingale, though she fought for and helped create the profession of nursing, was not a vocal feminist. In her private letters, though, a different woman emerges. In 1857, she rejected the idea of marriage as “the smallest of all possible spheres” and hinted, in a fictional manuscript, at her youthful longing for “a man’s education” and her dreams of disguising herself to attend Cambridge.

Nightingale was less honoured in her own day than she should have been and is too often slighted or misinterpreted in modern times. Never mind the lamp— Nightingale herself is a beacon to rigorous intellectual honesty, scientific inquiry and a life lived with sterling integrity.”

—Michele Landsberg, in Herizons, Vol.25, No.2 (Fall 2011): 38

Also reviewed in:

Glass, Laurie K. Review of Florence Nightingale at First Hand. Nursing History Review 20 (2012):222-24

Elliott, Jayne. Review of Florence Nightingale at First Hand. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. 66,3 (July 2011):403-06.

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