August 7, 2016
It is probably no coincidence that the unveiling of the Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital, June 30, was set to coincide with major attention to Brexit. The unveiling was also the occasion on the awarding of the first History Hoax award, to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, for promoting Mary Seacole as a founder of nursing and a “Hero of Healthcare.” The nominator wrote:
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 save lives, the programme instead honoured Mary Seacole for nursing, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson for women in medicine, Edward Jenner for medicine, and Nye Bevan for the Healthcare system. All deserve credit for their contribution, but not to the exclusion of Florence Nightingale, whose quality and quantity of health impacts were far greater.
Runner-up in the History Hoax awards is Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, for justifying the statue site at what was the Nightingale School of Nursing, and issuing a fallacious “research” statement making Seacole a “heroine who gave her life’s work in support” of the early development of nursing (20 July 2011). Yet he can’t give one example of any nursing by Seacole whatsoever.
The announcement of the unveiling resulted in yet another false achievement for Seacole, that she was “mentioned in dispatches,” an honour reserved for gallantry in battle. Her 3 battlefield excursions (she missed the major ones) took place post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. Mrs Seacole was a kind and generous businesswoman, but did not frequent battlefields “under fire” or pioneer nursing.
The Nightingale Society supports honouring her for her own life, but will continue to protest the re-writing of history to give her credit for Nightingale’s work.
[signed by 14 members of the Nightingale Society]