Dear Baronesses Amos, Benjamin and Scotland
We ask, how could three smart baronesses get it so wrong? We refer to your remarks made regarding the unveiling of the Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital. They repeat, uncritically, the usual propaganda of the Seacole campaign.
1. The “pioneer nurse” claim, but no one, from the Dept of Health through the RCN will say what she pioneered or where and when she nursed. During the Crimean War, she gave out Punch magazine to patients at the Land Transport Hospital near her business. She gave them a plum pudding and mince pies on New Year’s Day 1856. This is hardly nursing! Seacole added lead and mercury to her cholera “remedies” and used emetics and purging for bowel patients, which dehydrate, when rehydration is needed.
2. Contrary to the ITV news report, which had interviews with Baronesses Benjamin and Scotland, Seacole made no “towering contribution” to public life. She was kind and generous and she left an excellent memoir. Baroness Scotland is out of line by equating the contributions of the two “great women,” one white and one black. Yes, the contributions of black people should be acknowledged and celebrated, Mrs Seacole was a businesswoman who never nursed at all! She sold fine wines and meals to officers, while Nightingale nursed and got the filthy hospitals cleaned up, laundries and kitchens established for the benefit of British soldiers.
3. We entirely share Baroness Benjamin’s view that blacks should be celebrated for their contribution. The Nightingale Society has proposed a genuine black pioneer nurse, Mrs K.A. Pratt, to the Dept of Health to be honoured. We do not oppose honouring blacks, but oppose the use of misinformation, so blatant in the case of Mrs Seacole. Lynn McDonald’s Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014, gives bios of six minority nurses who deserve to be honoured, all with excellent credentials.
4. The remark that we should stop being NIMBYs badly misses the point. St Thomas’ Hospital was for more than a century the home of the Nightingale School, the first nursing school in the world, important for establishing the profession in many countries. To have a statue at it honouring Mrs Seacole, albeit a decent woman, who gave out magazines and treats at a hospital, but who never nursed at one at all, is very wrong.
We would be happy to debate you on these points. We would provide you with a briefing. We think you owe the public retractions for your remarks. Plenty of information on the propaganda campaign is available. See www.maryseacole.info.
[signed by 14 members of the Nightingale Society]