Posts filed under “Correspondence on Nightingale/Seacole misinformation”

To Sir David Cannadine, director, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Dear Sir David [Cannadine: Professor; director, ODNB]

Monica Baly was undoubtedly the best person to write the entry when it was commissioned, but she was past her best work, and in fact died before the final version was settled. There are some errors and peculiarities in her original text but, Worse, Colin Matthew added many points of his own. He and the advisors considered the entry to have been “too defensive,” meaning not critical enough. We consider the problem to have been undue reliance on F.B. Smith as a reliable source. Matthew added 14 Smith references to Baly’s text (she had one).

Lawrence Goldman, your predecessor, explained to one of us (Professor McDonald) that history graduate students were thrilled when Smith’s Reputation and Power book came out in 1982, delighted to see an icon tumble. Baly had already done her doctoral research when it appeared, and was not immediately influenced by it. She, however, increasingly accepted his views. The evolution of her ideas would make an excellent graduate seminar in history: the first edition of her 2 books on Nightingale were very favourable; in the second edition the superlatives are removed; in the third, there are negatives. Not all of the references Matthew added to Smith were wrong, but why quote him at all when he is such an unreliable source?

The (revised) entry praises Reputation and Power as “striking.” It warns of the errors and limitations of Woodham-Smith’s biography (agreed), but F.B. Smith is worse. Yet the (revised) entry credits him with examining “the remarkable network of manipulation (mostly by letter) by which she sought to impose her will and achieve her objectives” (911). It stated, without primary source evidence, that she “often used relatives ruthlessly to help her with her with various projects” and that she “coerced” others into acting as secretaries or guardians in her house (908).

Numerous errors in the entry have already been sent in (see correspondence from McDonald 20 December 2006 and 29 December 2009 and from Goldman 12 February 2007 and 19 February 2010). Corrections were made only on (most of) the incorrect names and dates, so that serious bloopers remain, such as that Nightingale “continued to disregard the germ theory of infection.” No, germ theory is not in her early books – how could it be, when they predate Lister’s antiseptic surgery (1867) and Koch’s definitive paper of 1879? Her school taught a rudimentary version of it in 1873, the first nursing school to do so (she approved the syllabus). How she came to accept germ theory is set out in Cook’s biography. She made references to germs and germ theory in late papers, notably in one for an Indian journal. She urged that slides be presented in lectures in Indian villages, to demonstrate the bacilli and encourage people to clean up the local water supply (“Sanitation in India, Quarterly Journal of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha). Baly and Matthew are wrong.

We are concerned about the disproportionate space given to Nightingale’s family relations, and the sexist terms used: she is referred to by her first name, even as an adult; her mother is nicknamed “Fanny,” while her father is not nicknamed (he was “Night”). Nightingale’s Suggestions for Thought is discussed, but without any realization of its history, a composite of two draft novels and dialogue among a range of religious thinkers. The Crimean War coverage is heavy on the “lady with the lamp” imagery, light on the reforms she made.

The coverage of family relations and her suitor in general was not faulty, but out of proportion; her important health care and social reforms are glossed over or omitted. For example:

  1. No discussion of her Notes on Hospitals, a work used worldwide; indeed scant mention of her work on hospital reform. Only the briefest mention, no discussion, of her Introductory Notes on Lying-in Institutions, a pioneering study of maternal mortality post-childbirth.
  2. No list of her major writings!
  3. No coverage of her study of mortality and morbidity in colonial schools and hospitals or the disappearance of aboriginal races, nor of a proposal for providing employment in times of distress, nor her critique of the harm of voluntary relief in war.
  4. No discussion of Nightingale’s important late writing: (1) 2 articles on nursing for Quain’s Dictionary of Medicine, 1883, updated in 1890 and 1894, with the latest information on aseptic procedures for operating theatres; (2) 1884 a letter to the editor of the New York Herald on cholera prevention, “Scavenge Scavenge Scavenge” reprinted in both British and American journals, books and shorter works, reprinted in 1892; (3) 1890 a short article on hospitals in Chambers’s Encyclopedia; (4) 1893 a major paper for a Chicago world congress.

The section heads are unhelpful, when not misleading, especially “Out of office 1870-1880,” from an offhand remark cited from Cook 2:240 that the new viceroy, Lord Northbrook, did not visit her in 1872 (they did correspond). Lord Lytton, the next viceroy, did not visit either, but their differences were so great that she was glad that he did not ask her to do anything for him. The three Liberal viceroys that followed were keen to collaborate, and visited (Lords Ripon 1880-84, Dufferin 1884-88 and Lansdowne, 1888-94), also numerous governors of presidencies.

She had excellent government connections, notably with Lord de Grey (later Ripon) and Lord Hartington; Gladstone had a high opinion of her, which is badly misrepresented in the brief reference to him. During the 1870s she did a great deal to establish district nursing (in the entry briefly noted in 1867, when most of her work was in the late 1870s and late 1880s). She did a massive amount on India then, and the Franco-Prussian War (nowhere discussed!).

“Religion and attitude to women” makes no sense as a section, quite apart from the fact that it is wrong on her and her family’s religious views and practices. The error on germ theory oddly is in Religion and attitude to women.

The heading “Old age, 1880-1910″ is faulty; Nightingale effectively retired in 1900, but was enormously productive 1880 to at least 1893 (see the late papers). This included more work on India, the Egyptian campaigns and Anglo-Zulu Wars (nowhere discussed); she helped to launch new projects in health visiting; worked on establishing female medical care for women in India (with Lady Dufferin, the vicereine): mentored nurses going to India to nurse in plague: advised on new pavilion hospitals for (Montreal, Derby, Liverpool and Berlin are examples); assisted on establishing nurse training in Germany, and, in the 1890s, Italy and France.

She also took on new subjects in this late period, such as the Rukhmabai case, defending an Indian woman who refused to consummate her (child) marriage; she wrote a campaign letter for Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Indian to be elected to the British Parliament, and did further work on famine prevention and relief, with attention to land ownership, tenancy, credit and taxes.

The statement that Nightingale “tried to keep up with public health matters but she was increasingly out of touch” is badly mistaken; see those later writings and correspondence with experts who sought her advice.

The entry is wrong also that “in 1889 St Thomas’ appointed a matron without consulting her or the council”; she was consulted for the appointment made in 1890, via the secretary of her Council, Henry Bonham Carter (see the Minute Book and Add Mss 47722 and 47737); she was consulted on appointments as late as 1897.

What grounds are there for the conclusion that “she failed to achieve a credible training for nurses” in her school, for which further references are given to F.B. Smith. Sources which credit her with significant accomplishments in nursing are simply omitted: Lucy Seymer, Florence Nightingale’s Nurses: The Nightingale Training School 1860-1960, and Brian Abel-Smith, A History of the Nursing Profession). For a chronology of Nightingale’s influence establishing nursing throughout Britain and the world, see McDonald, Florence Nightingale: Extending Nursing, pp. 12-22 and for a list of the hospitals which got matrons from her school, see McDonald, The Nightingale School, Appendix C.

No information is given as to what training schools did a better job; indeed significant advances in training occurred only much later, e.g. with Isabel Hampton Robb at Johns Hopkins University Hospital (Nightingale mentored her). Nightingale’s influence can be seen as well in the writing of the next two generations of nursing leaders.

Given that the bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth will be celebrated in 2020, we are keen to see adequate coverage of her work in the ODNB, an influential source, which will undoubtedly be consulted in the preparation of speeches, papers, etc. We are all too aware of the ODNB entry on Mary Seacole being used as justification for errors elsewhere, notably by English Heritage.

(Signed by 20 members of the Nightingale Society)

To Sigma Theta Tau International

Teddie Potter, PhD, RN
Riane Eisler, JD PhD(h)
Dustin Sullivan, publisher
Email: dustin@stti.org

November 13, 2016

Dear Drs Potter and Eisler and Mr Sullivan

Thank you for your response to our concerns, which, however, we find inadequate; the great problems remain, for which we provide further evidence.

We note that the material at fault is largely a repeat of Potter’s doctoral dissertation. Sadly neither her advisor or any committee member or external examiner challenged her on the numerous factual errors in the thesis (now repeated in the book), nor the inadequate referencing – no page numbers for citations from a 200-page book!

1. Autobiographies? Nightingale never wrote one, yet she is on your list; Seacole’s book might better be called a travel memoir, but is closer.

2. Your reference to Seacole’s “interest in caring for others” from before Nightingale was born. It is common for children to care for and cure dolls; Seacole was hardly exceptional in this.

3. Rushdie: we do not suggest that you should quote him on Nightingale being a whore, but question why you would quote him at all when he said that. There are thousands of books and articles on Nightingale and a substantial number on Seacole: why cite one by an author with no expertise in nursing, war, history or health, and one who has made preposterous and nasty statements about the major founder of nursing?

Racial prejudice is indeed a problem for nursing, but Rushdie is hardly the person to comment, nor is this the place to discuss the issue. Many qualified nurses could be cited if the point is to be pursued. The suggestion that Seacole was not selected because of her race misses the fact that she never applied properly, was old for nursing and lacked hospital experience. Had she applied, she might well have been rejected, but we can hardly know for what reason.

Further, the “companion” cited for rejecting her, called the “dominator hierarchy”, was not acting on Nightingale’s behalf or even knowledge. Seacole herself was cautious in her suggestion of prejudice, that “had there been a vacancy, I should not have been chosen to fill it” (Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, p 79), but the fact remains that there was no vacancy as all the nurses had left!

Seacole reports going to the Herbert house on her (belated) quest, and found many people there, including “flunkeys,” but no nurses. If she had gone in good time, she would have seen applicants arriving and leaving and even the pre-departure briefing of the second group, held on December 1. An accusation of racism is serious.

4. What evidence do you have that Seacole considered “listening to narratives to be important parts” of her care? Page number?

5. That she gave care to “Russians”: not wrong but limited to “several” on one day only, the battle of the Tchernaya, 16th of August 1855 (pp 166-7). She also snipped buttons from their greatcoats and accepted |plunder” and “trophies” from Russian churches (pp 167 and 173).

6. You again confuse officers with ordinary soldiers. Nightingale’s mission was to ordinary soldiers, Seacole’s business was for officers. Yes, her mother had a “boarding house,” and she sometimes attended “invalid officers and their wives,” meaning officers and their wives. Not soldiers, who could not have afforded the price, and were required to live in barracks, in any event.

7. “Some of Seacole’s treatments are no longer considered effective and we feel it is unrealistic to criticize 19th century caregiving based on modern standards.” Fine on your second point. But which Seacole treatments can be considered effective now and which not? She gave the ingredients for only one (p 31), which included toxic substances. Please be specific.

The fact remains that Seacole in prescribing, preparing and administering “remedies” was practising medicine and pharmacy, although without a licence in either field. This does not make her a nurse. Nightingale, at that same time, opted for a cautious approach to patients, and pointedly said that chemicals do not cure. She is the great source for reparative nursing, putting the patient in the best condition for nature to effect a cure. This is radically different from what Seacole did, and the two should not be linked together.

8. You should acknowledge that dehydration is deleterious to bowel patients, far from calling it “care and cure.”

9. Your proposed revision “While in London, she heard news reports of the terrible conditions” and went “immediately” to the War Office” is still wrong. Seacole’s memoir shows that she was motivated by “the fearful storm of the 14th of November” (p 74), news of which did not reach London until November 30 (“The Gale in the Black Sea,” 30 November 1854 Times 7A). If she had been motivated by the general bad conditions, she could have applied months earlier. But she did not – busy on her gold stocks.

10. We do not see any reference to “borrowed” money. Please give a page number. “Funds” hardly means a loan.

11. Your proposed revision “the traditional route of service was barred” yet again, implies discrimination. We have no way of knowing what would have happened if Seacole had applied. The “traditional route” might be considered the submission of the required application and letters of reference.

12. Scutari vs. Balaclava. Seacole and her business partner both knew the Crimea was the place for their business. He was already there and she was en route to join him. Her memoir states “I am bound for the front in a few days” (p 90). Yet she was fearful of finding her way to the ship at night where she was staying until departure, as she told Mrs Bracebridge. Balaclava was always her destination; it was not a last minute decision based on seeing the hospital.

13. Your revision continues to be false by its reference to “men” when her business was always for officers, a “mess-table and comfortable quarters.” Officers and soldiers do not mix socially; officers eat in separate “messes,” not with the soldiers. That the quarters were not built was a business decision, based on Soyer’s advice. See his memoir, on their meeting and his entering her hut: “No sooner had we entered than the old lady expressed her desire to consult me about what she should do to make money in her new speculation, in which she had embarked a large capital” (Soyer, Culinary Campaign 232). He advised her: “‘Lay in a good stock of hams, wines, spirits, ale and porter, sauces, pickles and a few preserves and dry vegetables–in short anything which will not spoil by keeping.’ ‘Yes,’ said she, ‘I mean to have all that.’”

The “early nursing” term continues to be misleading. Seacole NEVER identified herself as a “nurse.” Page number??? She did use “doctress” for herself often, and even, as noted earlier “doctress, nurse and ‘mother’” but “nurse” as such, no.

14. Finally, you state that your treatment of Seacole “in no way diminishes the contributions of Florence Nightingale.” Presumably not, but you do nothing to make them known. Sigma Theta Tau published a picture book of Nightingale, a very fine one, with apt, brief quotations, but to our knowledge nothing serious on her.

15. Your “expert views” are not experts but Seacole campaign boosters. Many leading nurses have joined in the campaign, but this does not make them experts? An evidence for their expertise? Peer-reviewed articles?

[ signed by 17 members of the Nightingale Society ]

To Ian Blatchford, director, The Science Museum

To: Ian Blatchford, director
Science Museum
November 13, 2016

re: Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine. Mary Seacole (1805-81)

Dear Mr Blatchford

We are puzzled as to why a Science Museum would have even a short item on its web resource Exploring the History of Medicine on someone not known for any scientific achievement, Mary Seacole, fine person and celebrity that she was.

That this short entry should be laced with factual errors is astonishing. People expect a Science Museum to have a serious regard for research standards, at least basic fact checking, but your few correct points are surrounded by exaggerations and actual errors. As well, the visual chosen is misleading. It shows Seacole wearing medals she did not win, omitting that relevant point. Herewith evident factual errors.

1. You call her a “Nurse,” but Seacole did not do anything resembling nursing, nor ever claimed to have. She frequently used the term “doctress” as a descriptor, and once “doctress, nurse and mother” (in her Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, p 124). The term “nurse,” however, she reserved for Nightingale and her nurses.

2. You have her learning “medicine and nursing” from her mother, but she called her mother an “admirable doctress” (p 2), meaning a herbalist, and never mentioned learning nursing from her.

3. She “helped soldiers during the Crimean War.” Yes, but her main activity was a business serving officers, where she charged commercial prices for her fine food, wine, catering, etc. The first aid she gave to soldiers was confined to 3 days, post-battle, when she went onto the battlefield after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. Your account makes it look like helping soldiers was her main activity.

4. Her husband was a “naval officer.” No, he was a merchant. The two ran a store together in Jamaica.

5. “She spent a lot of time nursing in Panama.” But if you look at her book, the “nursing,” was limited to outbreaks of epidemics. Her main work was a store.

6. “At the start of the Crimean War in 1853 she went to London to offer her services.” No, Turkey and Russia were at war with each other in 1853, but Britain only joined in March 1854, and the army reached the Crimea only in September 1854. Seacole went back to Panama on business after Britain declared war, and only went to London in September 1854, and that for business reasons (see her memoir, Chapter 8).

7. “Her application to join Florence Nightingale’s nursing team was turned down.” No. Nightingale had already left by the time Seacole decided that she wanted to go, too (pp 73-76). It is a bit much to say that she was turned down when she never handed in the necessary application and references. Instead, after Nightingale had left, Seacole dropped into various offices informally, seeking a post, but too late. The second team had left, too. There was no “team” to go with when she (informally) applied!

8. Instead of giving up, she went “at her own expense.” But why should anyone else pay for her? She and her partner had plans to open a business.

9. Their “roughly built hotel.” No, Seacole announced the intention of opening a “mess table with comfortable quarters” (p 81) for officers, but, on the advice of Alexis Soyer, kept the business to food, wine, catering, etc., no overnight stays. There was NO hotel.

10. The “popular canteen serving good food.” Really? Seacole’s book gives 3 chapters to the food and wine she served officers, but not a word as to what was served in the “canteen for the soldiery” (p 114).

11. “She would take mules with food, wine and medicines across country to the battlefield front lines.” Hardly: she did this on 3 occasions, dates given; you make it sound like a regular activity, when it was 3 times in a two-year war (she missed the first 3, major, battles of the war, busy in London on her business interests).

12. “She obtained special passes.” No, the day after the last battle, on the fall of Sebastopol, she got a special pass to enter the city. Once. Further, her memoir makes it clear that this expedition was largely social (p 173). She also picked up a fair bit of “plunder.” You do exaggerate!

13. She looked after “the wounded and dying on both sides.” On 3 occasions.

14. She went bankrupt by “debts run up by soldiers at the British Hotel.” No. Nor did she ever say so. They had leftover stock and could not sell it when the army returned to England. The debts at the business were unpaid bills by customers, i.e., officers and the war correspondent.

If you really wanted to pursue the “History of Medicine” theme, you might want to explore Seacole’s use of lead and mercury, her dehydration of bowel patients when rehydration is needed (not then known). She herself admitted making “lamentable blunders” in her remedies (p 31), a topic that would be worth pursuing but you do not even mention this.

Finally, the Bibliography cites only sources that praise Seacole, several of which give grossly exaggerated accounts of her work. More careful sources, which cite primary sources, are available. See Lynn McDonald, Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014 and a website www.maryseacole.info/.

Sincerely yours

[ 17 members of the Nightingale Society ]

To the Trustees of the Nightingale Museum

To: Natasha McEnroe, please forward to all Trustees
Dame Christine Beasley, chair
Professor Ian Norman, vice-chair
Jon Card
Colin Brough
Alastair Gourlay
Jonathan Rounce
Chloe Sheppard
Janet Vitmayer OBE
Baroness Mary Watkins

7 November 2016

Dear Dame Christine and Trustees

Lt Col Raugh, jr., and Major Robins have forwarded your response of October 26, 2016, to the rest of the co-signers. We appreciate your willingness to consider constructive criticism, and hence respond together, on two points.

1. The film with Helen Rappaport: none of us has been able to see it, but we question why a person would be chosen who has three publications on Nightingale/Seacole which all denigrate Nightingale, and one even accuses her of racism, and attribute false accomplishments to Seacole. Details below. Unless Rappaport apologized in the film, and retracted her published statements, we wonder why she would be given yet another platform. The fact that she is a member of the Crimean War Research Society does not absolve her from the responsibility of checking facts. Anyone can join the society, which includes many amateur historians.

2. We did not say that your material on Cavell and Soyer was inaccurate, but incomplete, omitting their significant connections, especially Soyer’s, with Nightingale. We would expect a Florence Nightingale Museum to make those interesting connections.

2001. Rappaport, Helen. An Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers. 2 vols. Santa Barbara CA: ABC Clio.

Nightingale is said to have “declined an invitation to join the London National Society for Women Suffrage in 1867″ (2:492), although she signed it, and many other petitions for the vote. (Helen Taylor thanked her for her prompt signature and Clementia Taylor sent her a receipt for her dues.)

Rappaport fell for Hugh Small’s erroneous account of Nightingale’s hospital having the highest death rates, without one table or chart or one firm statistic!. Rappoport took his speculation as fact: “But the reality of Nightingale’s sense of personal failure and despair is a far more compelling story, recently uncovered by Hugh Small.”

She is sarcastic that Nightingale was “supposedly sole pioneer of women’s nursing in Britain” (2:486-87), although Nightingale always gave great credit to other nurses, especially Mary Jones, Agnes Jones, Sarah Wardroper, A.L. Pringle and Florence Lees. Rappaport is mistaken on Nightingale’s religion, calling her Unitarian, when she was evangelical Church of England.

Rappaport’s item on Seacole in the same publication is wildly inaccurate in the other direction, “Seacole, Mary (1805-1881) Jamaica,” 2:631-3. There she credits Seacole with going to the Crimea “to pioneer the nursing of the sick and wounded during the war of 1854-1856,” Nightingale’s work! Seacole only went in the spring of 1855, to run a business.

There are unfounded statements: “For many years, Seacole’s unique contribution to the development of nursing and the treatment of tropical diseases lay buried.” What “unique contribution”? Her “remedy” for cholera included toxic substances and dehydrated the patient (WA 31).

Rappaport falsely stated that Seacole looked after “sick British soldiers at the military camp at Up-Park Town, near Kingston,” when she herself stated that she was asked to, but did not (WA 63).

False again, that, “When the Crimean War broke out in 1854, she realized her moment had come and immediately sailed for England, where she offered her services to the War Office.” Her own account shows that, when war was declared, she went back to Panama on business, went on to London in September 1854, and only began to seek a post as nurse after 2 months or more on business (WA 73-76). Hardly “immediately sailed”! A convenient Timeline is provided in a peer-reviewed article by McDonald, using sources just as available to Rappaport (“Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole on Nursing and Health Care.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 69,11 (November 2013):1436-44).

Rappaport, worse yet, portrays Nightingale as a racist who refused Seacole’s services, as had the War Office, but Seacole never properly applied: “Florence Nightingale (no doubt for the same reasons of racial prejudice) also declined her offer to join her band of nurses.” Yet Seacole’s own account shows that, when she met Nightingale, at Scutari, she asked for a bed for the night and got one; she was en route to the Crimea to start her business. The actual account, according to Seacole, reads: “‘What do you want, Mrs Seacole–anything that we can do for you? If it lies in my power, I shall be very happy’” (WA 91). Where is the racism?

Rappaport transmogrifies Seacole’s hut for serving food and wine, into a hotel with hospital: “Above the ground floor store and canteen [the canteen was in a separate hut] was a sick bay [non-existent] where she nursed the wounded, dispensed her own herbal medicines and introduced methods of nursing that emphasized cleanliness, plenty of ventilation and an abundance of her own home-cooked food.” But the food was for sale to officers, and the ventilation, in a hut!!! – it was Nightingale who emphasized ventilation. Cleanliness? Not mentioned in Seacole’s book, but there are 3 chapters on the food she sold to officers.

A picture has Seacole at the bedside of a soldier (2:632), but the only times she was at a bedside was when she was distributing magazines, Punch, to the local hospital, where Nightingale’s nurses did the nursing.

2005. “The Invitation that Never Came: Mary Seacole After the Crimea.” History Today 55,2 (February 2005):9-15.

This article has Seacole so important that the queen would want to invite her to a personal meeting, and that there could be only one rational explanation for the queen’s reluctance; someone must have turned the queen’s mind: “There is only one logical candidate to fit the latter argument: Florence Nightingale.” Rappoport invents: “At some stage the queen must, surely, have interrogated Nightingale about the celebrated Mrs Seacole.” There is not a shred of evidence for this bizarre suggestion.

It is sorry enough that the Florence Nightingale Museum did nothing to defend Nightingale when she was attacked as a racist by the BBC, but to give a platform to someone who repeated the accusation is troubling.

Detailed refutations of Hugh Small’s claims are available in peer-reviewed publications by Lynn McDonald, available on her academic website, http://www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn/. Some years ago the director agreed to cross-link it with the Museum’s website. But this has yet to happen.

2007. No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War. London: Aurum.

In this book, Rappaport accords Seacole medals she never won, nor ever claimed to have won them (she wore them, but in her book is clear that she did not win any, and the picture of her on the cover shows no medals). Nightingale gets sarcasm: “Miss Nightingale Queens It with Absolute Power”; a picture shows the Crimean medal with 4 clasps (Alma, Balaclava, Inkermann and Sebastopol–for the siege); Seacole did not win the medal and was not even in the Crimea for the 3 battles listed, and missed the first half of the siege of Sebastopol. This is misinformation by picture, not history.

We would be happy to provide a briefing on the subject and/or to debate Rappaport or anyone else you wish at the Museum.

Sincerely yours
[signed by 17 members of the Nightingale Society]

To Dr Jeremy Farrar, director, Wellcome Trust

Dr Jeremy Farrar, OBE, FRS
director, Wellcome Trust
7 November 2016

Dear Dr Farrar,

Many years ago the Wellcome Trust sponsored research on the work of Florence Nightingale and produced some excellent material, still used by researchers. Sadly, it has done little since of use. Worse, it has now joined the ranks of the detractors, in the cause of promoting Mary Seacole. We do not at all object to celebrating Mrs Seacole’s remarkable life, or her excellent memoir, but do object strenuously to according her qualities and achievements she never had, nor ever claimed to have.

The blog post by Content Officer Julia Nurse, posted October 24 2016 on the Wellcome Library website, is wrong from beginning to end. Comments were invited and several of us posted critical comments, citing better sources. None of them has appeared.

As of midweek last week, it seems that the blog post has been withdrawn, with no information provided as to why, or for how long. We are concerned that it might be republished with only minimal changes — so much of the secondary material is plainly wrong, particularly when compared to Seacole’s own writing in Wonderful Adventures.

Herewith details of what is wrong with your material:

1. “Mary Seacole is hailed for her role in caring for sick and wounded British servicemen during the Crimean War”: but her business in the Crimea was selling food and wine to officers, and catering their dinner parties; her assistance to servicemen was scant in comparison, first aid on the battlefield for a few hours on three days (she missed the first three, major, battles of the war as she was busy in London on her gold investments). She also sold “remedies” over the counter to walk-in “patients,” but since we do not know the ingredients, cannot be sure if this was “care” or harm.

2. She made her way to the Crimea “independently … despite being refused passage by the Government of the time.” Since she never submitted an application to become an army nurse (they are at the U.K. National Archives, Kew), how could she have been accepted? She explains in her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, why she waited for some 2 months, attending to her failing gold investments, while Nightingale and her team prepared to leave and left (pp 73-6). By the time Mrs Seacole decided she wanted to go, too, even the second group was off.

3. She had “no official” appointments to her name”: how could she have one, since she never applied and never worked as a nurse at all?

4. That “the majority” of her book is dedicated to her work in the Crimea,” yes, with a focus on the food and drinks she sold to officers, with short mentions of her first aid efforts.

4. Mrs Seacole’s father was a “Scottish lieutenant in the British Army”: she called him “a soldier of an old Scotch family” (p 1), no mention of his being a lieutenant.

5. According to her memoir, Seacole’s mother was an “admirable doctress” (p 1), but there is no mention of her teaching her daughter “traditional nursing skills.”

6. Mrs Seacole put these supposed “nursing skills” to use by “occasionally assisting at the local British army hospital.” False again; Seacole said nothing of nursing at any British Army hospital anywhere. Name one! Rather that she was asked, once, to get nurses for the local army hospital (p 63), but that she did not.

7. “She looked to the natural environment for simple curative solutions.” But in her memoir she admitted adding lead and mercury to her “remedy” for cholera, and acknowledged making “lamentable blunders” (p 31). Her “remedy” dehydrated bowel patients when the effective treatment is rehydration.

One might have thought that a medical research institution would have critically examined Seacole’s “remedies,” given that the wrong treatment for cholera – dehydration – is not merely ineffective but increases the death rate, an estimated 50 to 70%.

8. As claimed, there are references to Seacole in the London Times and the Illustrated London News, but they are not about nursing.

9. She was “refused safe passage when she volunteered her services,” a repeat error, for, by her own admission, she never properly applied, and her causal efforts were late.

10. Seacole offered “much needed care and sustenance” from her hut. Yes, there was “sustenance” for officers, wine, food, catering, at commercial prices; the “care” claim is an exaggeration as the worst of the siege was over when she arrived and set up shop, in late spring 1855, after the terrible winter from November 1854 to March 1855.

11. Elizabeth Anionwu’s statement is wrong that Mrs Seacole “was a nurse even before we had nurses.” Hardly, she ran a business and was proud of it; her business in Panama financed her trip to the Crimea. Mrs Seacole never once claimed to be a “nurse,” a term she reserved for Nightingale and her nurses. She did call herself “doctress, nurse and ‘mother’” (WA 124) not quite a job title.

12. Mention is made that Seacole rarely used opium, but none of the fact that she used lead and mercury (WA 31), which are toxic in any dose.

Further, the two visuals in the blog are misleading – both show Seacole wearing medals she did not win. (It was not then illegal to wear other people’s medals – it is now).

The “Lynne Macdonald” quoted in the blog is presumably Lynn McDonald – no source given – whose Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014, gives primary sources on these various points. For other errors on Seacole see www.maryseacole.info.

We urge that the blog entry be removed and an apology for circulating misinformation substituted.

Sincerely yours
[17 members of the Nightingale Society]

From Sigma Theta Tau International

Response to Concerns Voiced by the Nightingale Society

The purpose of this response is to address concerns raised by Mark Bostridge author of Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon (2008) and others affiliated with the Nightingale Society in an email on 27 October 2016.

Background

The narrative in Chapter 5 of Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care (Eisler & Potter, 2014) elevates nursing exemplars from history that expressed their lived experience through autobiographies. The inclusion of one nurse exemplar is not meant to diminish or detract from the other exemplars. Each exemplar is an independent narrative that expresses the internal reflections and thought processes related to being a nurse. The purpose of using autobiographies rather than histories is to illuminate the lived experience of being a nurse. This is because histories generally involve an external source that describes the actions of nurses.

Responses to specified concerns (complaints are directly quoted and are in bold print):

Seacole precedes Nightingale in coverage (pp 106-8), and the two are together are called “early nurses.”

The narrative begins with Seacole because she was born in 1805 and she starts her narrative at an earlier date than Nightingale’s narrative. She described watching her mother, who Seacole identifies as a doctress, care for officers and their wives, “But I saw so much of her, and her patients that the ambition to become a doctress early took firm root in my mind; and I was very young when I began to make use of the little knowledge I had acquired from watching my mother, upon a great sufferer- my doll” (Seacole, 1857/2005, p. 12).

The section did not begin with Mary Seacole because she is thought of as more important than Florence Nightingale or to demonstrate who we believe deserved to come first. Rather, the narratives begin with her because her own interest in caring for others as described in her autobiographical narrative started before Florence was born (b. 1820).

The Seacole section begins with a quotation from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses complimenting Seacole, although it does not quote his calling Nightingale a “whore” in Grimus: a Novel. How did he get to be an expert on the Crimean War or nursing history?

The quote: “See here is Mary Seacole, who did as much in the Crimea as another magic-lamping Lady, but being dark could scarce be seen for the flame of Florence’s candle” –Salman Rushdie (1988, p. 301)

Rushdie’s quote, even if he is not an expert on Crimean War or nursing history, suggests that Seacole suffered racial prejudice due to her dark skin that diminished her contributions. Racial prejudice remains an issue pertinent to modern nursing. As this quote relates to the section on Mary Seacole and not Florence Nightingale (or Salman Rushdie), it would have been wildly inappropriate to include quotes related to Nightingale, especially one as inflammatory as the one offered in your email.

Eisler and Potter’s topology, Partnership Principle Illustrated, makes Seacole into a partner of Nightingale – although she was a businesswoman and the two met for only about 5 minutes and never discussed nursing!

The entire book approaches partnership as defined by Riane Eisler in her cultural transformation theory (1987, 2002). The book’s use of the word partnership or partners has nothing to do with a business partnership.

Seacole is said to have promoted a “democratic and economically equitable structure of linking and hierarchies of actualization in both family and state”, “conflict creatively used to arrive at solutions.” Any evidence for this claim? We know of none.

The three statements“democratic and economically equitable structure of linking”, “hierarchies of actualization in both family and state” and “conflict creatively used to arrive at solutions” are characteristics of partnership relationships according to Eisler (1987, 2002). Table 5.1 (Eisler & Potter, 2014, pp. 132-134) summarizes the partnership characteristics that the authors felt were evident in the writings of each exemplar. Seacole’s narrative demonstrates some level of “democratic and economically equitable structure of linking”, “hierarchies of actualization in both family and state” and “conflict creatively used to arrive at solutions.”

Samples of supporting evidence from Seacole (1857/2005):

Democratic and economically equitable structure of linking:

-“It must be understood that many of those who could afford to pay for my services did so handsomely, but the great majority of my patients had nothing better to give than thanks” (p. 31).

-“I attended to the wounds of many French and Sardinians, and helped to lift them into the ambulances, which came tearing up to the scene of action. I derived no little gratification from being able to dress the wounds of several Russians; indeed they were kindly treated as the others” (p. 142).

Hierarchies of actualization in both family and state:

-“Against the negroes, of whom there were many in the Isthmus, and who almost invariably filled the municipal offices, and took the lead in every way, the Yankees has a strong prejudice; but it is wonderful to see how freedom and equality elevate men, and the same negro who perhaps in Tennessee would have cowered like a beaten child or dog beneath an American’s uplifted hand, would face him boldly here, and by equal courage and superior physical strength cow his old oppressor” (p. 44)

Conflict creatively used to arrive at solutions:

-“Let what might happen, to the Crimea I would go . . . I would have willingly given my services as a nurse; but as they declined them, should I not go and open a hotel for invalids in the Crimea in my own way?” (pp. 73–74)

The pair are called “early nurses” who “considered practice and listening to narratives to be important parts of their care.”

The book states, “The autobiographies also provide evidence that these early nurses considered presence and listening to narratives to be important parts of their care” (Eisler & Potter, 2014, p. 106). This quote is the prelude to the narratives of the exemplars. It broadly covers characteristics of all of the exemplars selected. Seacole is described widely in other works as being a nurse. The fact that she can also be described as a businesswoman does not take away from her experience as a caregiver.

Seacole’s mother is incorrectly credited with managing a boarding house for “disabled British soldiers” (p 106) when she ran a small hotel for British officers.

“My mother kept a boarding-house in Kingston” (Seacole, 1857/2005, p. 11).

“When I was about twelve years old I was more frequently at my mother’s house, and used to assist her in her duties; very often sharing with her the task of attending upon invalid officers or their wives, who came to her house from the adjacent camp at Up-Park, or the military station at Newcastle” (p. 13)**

She combined “care and cure” in her “healing ministry,” a strange conclusion given that she added lead and mercury to her cholera remedy to make it more effective, and admitted “lamentable blunders” (WA p 31). Any evidence that dehydrating. [sic]

The quote: “Traditional healers did not split care and cure; therefore, Seacole combined both in her healing ministry. She was just as apt to dress a wound and care for a feverish patient, as she was to reach into her medicine bag for an effective herbal treatment (Seacole, 1857/2005)” (Eisler & Potter, 2014, p. 106).

It is not the intent of these narratives to evaluate the efficacy of specific treatments or approaches. We recognize that in the last 160 years there have been improvements in nursing care and some of Seacole’s treatments are no longer considered effective, and we feel it is unrealistic to criticize 19th century caregiving based on modern standards.**

Seacole is next said to have treated British soldiers in Panama for dysentery and cholera, but the British Army was not there – her customers and patients were men on their way to the California Gold Rush.

The chapter includes the sentence: “Early in Seacole’s career, she gained recognition for the care she provided for British soldiers suffering from cholera and dysentery in Panama” (p. 106). Admittedly this sentence is incomplete, probably due to a mistake during editing or proofreading. The sentence should have said, “Early in Seacole’s career, she gained recognition for the care she provided for British soldiers and for people suffering from cholera and dysentery in Panama.” The existing sentence will be amended as noted above.

Supporting evidence included:

“I had gained a reputation as a skillful nurse and doctress, and my house was always full of invalid officers and their wives from Newcastle, or the adjacent Up-Park Camp” (p. 16).

“Among the diseases which I understood were most prevalent in the Crimea were cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery, all of them more or less known in tropical climates; and which as the reader will remember, my Panama experience had made me tolerably familiar” (p. 71).

Any evidence that her “care and cure,” which entailed dehydrating bowel patients, actually cures? The effective treatment is oral rehydration therapy, the opposite of using emetics, purging from the bowels and blistering fo [sic] sweat the patient, as Seacole did.

Please see previous comment about care and cure.

Seacole is said, when she read newspaper reports “on the terrible conditions and high mortality rate of British soldiers fighting in the Crimea War, she immediately left for London” (p 107). A reference is given to her book, but no page number, perhaps because nowhere does such a statement appear. Rather, she acknowledged arriving in London, shortly after the first battle (September 20), or before any account of high mortality could have appeared.

The narrative states, “When she read newspaper reports of the terrible conditions and high mortality rate of

British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War, she immediately left for London” (Eisler & Potter, 2014, p. 107). This sentence will be rewritten to reflect Seacole’s presence in London at the time reports of casualties were being received. This will correct Seacole’s travel timeline and sequence of events. The revised sentence will be, ““While in London, she heard news reports of the terrible conditions and high mortality rate of British soldiers fighting in the Crimean War.”

Supporting evidence:

“As the winter wore on, came hints from all quarters of mismanagement, want, and suffering in the Crimea” (p. 70) and, “While all England was reeling beneath the shock of that fearful victory, came the sad news that hundreds were dying whom Russian shot and sword had spared, and that the hospitals of Scutari were utterly unable to shelter, or their inadequate staff to attend to The ship loads of sick and wounded which were sent to them across the stormy Black Sea” (p. 70).

She did immediately go to the War Office in London to apply for the post of hospital nurse (Seacole, 1857/2005, p. 71).**

Supporting evidence:

“I made up my mind that if the army wanted nurses, they would be glad of me, and with all the ardour of my nature, which ever carried me where inclination prompted, I decided that I _would _go to the Crimea; and go I did, as all the world knows” (Seacole, 1857/2005, p. 71).

“My first idea (and knowing that I was well fitted for the work, and would be the right woman in the right place, the reader can fancy my audacity, was to apply to the War Office for the post of hospital nurse” (Seacole, 1857/2005, p. 71).

She is said to have “borrowed money” to get there (p 107), although her own account states that she had capital acquired from her previous business (Wonderful Adventures, p 80).

That she seems to have borrowed money was inferred from her statement:

“My funds, although they might, carefully husbanded, carry me over the three thousand miles, and land me at Balaclava, would not support me there long” (p. 70).

While it is beyond the scope of the chapter to explain Seacole’s business arrangements and funding, the reference to “borrowed money” will be removed to provide a more accurate account. The sentence will be modified to say, “…When the traditional route of service was barred, she creatively forged another path and made her own arrangements to travel to Crimea.”

Eisler and Potter’s bizarre account has Seacole deciding to “move to the Crimean peninsula near Sebastopol” after she found out that the Barrack Hospital was in Turkey. But Seacole knew this all along; when she met Nightingale at the hospital, her passage was booked to the Crimea and she only wanted a bed for the night (WA, p 91).

The chapter states, “When she arrived, she discovered that the British hospital managed by Nightingale was in Scutari on the opposite shore of the Black Sea far from the Crimean battlefront. So Seacole decided to set up a suttler’s house or hotel on the Crimean peninsula near Sevastopol, a few miles from the front (Seacole, 1857/2005)” (Eisler & Potter, p. 107).

Supporting evidence:

“One thought never left my mind as I walked through the fearful halls of suffering in that great hospital. If it is so here, what must it not be at the scene of war- on the spot where the poor fellows are stricken down by pestilence or Russian bullets, and days and nights of agony must be passed before a woman’s hand can dress their wounds. And I felt happy in the conviction that I must be useful three or four days nearer to their pressing wants than this” (Seacole, 1857/2005, p. 81).

The sentence in the book could have said, “When she toured the British hospital managed by Nightingale in Scutari on the opposite shore of the Black Sea far from the Crimean battlefront, she discovered the impact that the distance between battlefront and hospital must have had on the men, confirming her decision to set up a suttler’s house or hotel on the Crimean peninsula near Sevastopol, a few miles from the front (Seacole, 1857/2005).” The existing sentence will be amended as noted above.

In conclusion, as noted above there are several statements that can be amended or replaced in order to more accurately reflect the details of Seacole’s early nursing experience and involvement in the Crimean War. While we do not believe that the statements as originally printed detract from the purpose of the narrative, it benefits all readers to make corrections in order to better reflect the facts. We thank The Nightingale Society for bringing them to our attention. We do maintain, however, that the inclusion of Mary Seacole in no way diminishes the contributions of Florence Nightingale, and we do not feel that Nightingale has been unfairly portrayed in the chapter. We believe that both women can be celebrated for their skills, accomplishments – and differences.

Teddie Potter, PhD, RN
Riane Eisler, JD, PhD(h)
Dustin Sullivan, Publisher, Sigma Theta Tau International

Other expert views of Mary Seacole:

From RCN President Sylvia Denton OBE FRCN

“Today, we understand as nurses that we have to work in partnership with our patients and their families. But the finest nurses, like Mary Seacole, have always done that, as we can see from accounts how warmly her patients liked and respected her” (cited in Anionwu, 2005, p.15).

Foreword written by RCN General Secretary Beverly Malone RN, PhD, FAAN

Nurse, leader, entrepreneur and doctress; there are many labels that could be used to describe this unique and utterly absorbing figure in nursing’s history- but in truth, she defies labeling. This formidable Victorian overcame innumerable hurdles- not least the innate racism attitudes of her time- to provide care for the soldiers in the Crimean War, thousands of miles from her home in Jamaica…

It is Mary Seacole’s confidence in the pure power of nursing and her enthusiasm for delivering that shines out and is an inspiration to nurses today. Mary carved out an important place for herself and for nursing amidst the hideous conditions of war, using as tools her natural flair for leadership, her clinical skills, and above all her commitment to providing superb patient care. As this history shows, her contemporaries recognized her bravery and caring. (cited in Anionwu, 2005, p. 1)

From former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Advanced Nursing

“Alas, their names and contributions to the professional development of nursing are almost in danger of being erased from the collective memory of the nursing profession. That should be checked. The same fate befell the outstanding work of Mary Seacole, a nineteenth century black British nurse. Fortunately she has been brought back to the notice of the profession again (Alexander & Dewjee 1984). She is a marvelous role model for today’s nurses –black and non-black alike.” (Smith, 1997, p. 437)

References:

Anionwq, E. N. (2005). A short history of Mary Seacole: A resource for nurses and nursing students. London, UK: Royal College of Nursing.

Bostridge, M. (2008). Florence Nightingale: The making of an icon. New York, NY: Farrat, Straus, and Giroux.

Eisler, R. (1987). The chalice and the blade: Our history, our future. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Eisler, R. (2002). The power of partnership. Novato , CA: New World Library.

Eisler, R., & Potter, T. (2014). Transforming interprofessional partnerships: A new framework for nursing and partnership-based health care.Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta Tau International.

Rushdie, S. (1988). The Satanic Verses.  New York, NY: Picador.

Seacole, M. (2005). Wonderful adventures of Mrs. Seacole in many lands. New York, NY: Penguin Boos. (Original work published 1857)

Smith, J. P. (1997). Liminal nurses urgently needed for the challenges ahead. Journal of Advanced Nursing 26 (3), pp. 437-438.

To the University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Dr Robert Weaver, Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships
Dr Holly Jones-Taggart Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
28 October 2016

Dear Drs Weaver and Jones-Taggart

This letter is sent to you as it was not possible to contact Nancy Slawski, who is listed as the person responsible for creating the material in question.

The Mary Seacole item in your website “Nursing 101″ (https://nursing101.wikispaces.com/) is factually wrong from start to end. Most of the errors could have been avoided if the writer had looked at Seacole’s own memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, which is briefly quoted. Major errors are:

1. That Seacole was a “black Florence Nightingale… equally accomplished,” recognized as “one of the greatest contributors to nursing history.” But she did not call herself a “nurse,” a title she used for Nightingale and her nurses. She was a businesswoman, as she made abundantly clear in her book. She did not nurse one day in any hospital, write anything about nursing, train one nurse. Or say where and when! What did she accomplish that would be remotely equal to Nightingale’s founding of the first nursing school in the world, mentoring of nurses for 40 years and much fine writing on nursing and broader health care issues? Seacole’s book has 3 chapters on the food and drink she sold officers from her business! Those who “recognize” her as a great contributor to nursing history have never given any evidence for the claim.

2. “Mary Seacole was a self-trained nurse who opened the door for ethnic minorities in nursing.” No. She called herself “doctress, nurse and mother,” and did some first aid. Her “patients” were relatively healthy walk-ins, buying her herbal “remedies.” These remedies themselves need another look, for she added mercury and lead to them, and admitted “lamentable blunders” (see her memoir, p 31). The door to ethnic minorities was opened, later, and with nothing to do with Seacole. (See Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, a pioneer Nigerian nurse, possibly the first black nurse in the NHS.)

Seacole volunteered at the hospital closest to her business, taking around magazines and, on New Year’s Day, 1856, bringing plum pudding and mince tarts, all very kind, but not nursing, let alone a major contribution to it.

3. “In 1850 a cholera epidemic occurred and Mary effectively dealt with the disease.” Hardly. She gave what help she could, but, sadly, her use of emetics, purging through the bowels and blistering (mustard poultices) are bad for cholera and any bowel disease. The effective treatment is oral rehydration therapy, not known then. Why pretend?

4. Seacole, on return from Panama “cared for people due to a yellow fever outbreak.” Yes, but unsuccessfully, as she frankly admitted. She deserves credit for being kind, for example, by closing dying people’s eyes. See her Chapter 7.

5. Seacole “travelled to London to aid the British Army; however, her application was rejected although Mary was more than qualified and had many letters of recommendation.” Wrong again; in her book she says she went to London to look after her gold investments (p 74); she included one letter of reference. More importantly, she never applied for a nursing job! She described dropping into offices concerned with the Crimean War, to ask informally for a post, after Nightingale had left with her team. The applications of the many who did apply, and their letters of recommendation, are available at the National Archives, Kew; there is nothing from or about her there.

Nursing 101 implies that Seacole was again turned down, by Nightingale herself. But Seacole’s own book describes an amicable meeting, when Seacole asked her for a bed for the night, as she was on her way to join her partner and start their business. These are Seacole’s own words about Nightingale: “‘What do you want, Mrs Seacole–anything that we can do for you? If it lies in my power, I shall be very happy’” (p 91).

Incidentally, Nightingale did have cholera experience, probably not as much as Seacole, but she is not known to have added toxic substances to any “remedy.” You really have it wrong!

Finally, the picture of Seacole displayed shows her wearing medals, which she did, without any mention that she never was awarded any, nor ever claimed to have been. With all the claims of heroism for her, this should have been noted.

For further information on the misrepresentation of Seacole see www.maryseacole.info/ and a short book, which uses primary sources, not propaganda (Lynn McDonald, Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014).

The “Nursing 101″ Seacole item should be withdrawn.

Yours sincerely
Mark Bostridge MA (Oxon), biographer
Robert Dingwall, PhD, FacSS, HonMFPH, prof emeritus, Nottingham University, founding director, Institute of Science and Society
Rose Dyson, EdD, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Marilyn Gendek, RN, MA, MN, FACN, consultatnt, nursing regulation and education, Australia
Marc Gilbert PhD, National Endowment in the Humanities Chair, Hawaii Pacific University; president, World History Association
Paul Hawkins (Rev), MA (Oxon) MA (Cantab)
Eileen Magnello, DPhil, research fellow, University College London
Wendy Mathews, BA, Grad Dip Phys (ret), former governor Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, LLD (hon), emerita professor, director, Collected Works of Florence Nightingale
Aroha Page, PhD, assoc professor nursing, Nipissing University
Allyson Pollock, FFPH, FRCGP, FRCP (Ed) professor, Public Health Research and Policy, Queen Mary College, London
Harold E. Raugh, Jr, Lt Col, PhD, FRHistS, FRAS, US Army, ret.
Colin Robins (Major) OBE, MA (Cantab), FRHistS, editor emeritus, War Correspondent: Journal of the Crimean War Research Society
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, MES, PhD, lecturer in environmental health, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Pat Smedley MSc (Nurs), BA Hons, RGN, former chair, Friends of the Florence Nightingale Museum
Ronald Trubuhovich, OMNZ, FRCA, FANZCA, FCICMANZ
Alex Whitehead (Rev Canon) MA, Mphil, Dip Ed, Homiletics co-ordinator, Lincoln College of Theology and Ministry

Please reply to contact@nightingalesociety.com

To Sigma Theta Tau International

President, CEO, Sigma Theta Tau International
27 October 2016

Dear Drs Catrambone and Thompson

It is troubling to see misinformation on nursing history published by a press under your esteemed name. We refer to Eisler and Potter’s Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care, 2014.

Seacole precedes Nightingale in coverage (pp 106-8), and the two are together are called “early nurses.” The Seacole section begins with a quotation from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses complimenting Seacole, although it does not quote his calling Nightingale a “whore” in Grimus: a Novel. How did he get to be an expert on the Crimean War or nursing history?

Eisler and Potter’s topology, Partnership Principle Illustrated, makes Seacole into a partner of Nightingale — although she was a businesswoman and the two met for only about 5 minutes and never discussed nursing!

Seacole is said to have promoted a “democratic and economically equitable structure of linking and hierarchies of actualization in both family and state, conflict creatively used to arrive at solutions.” Any evidence for this claim? We know of none.

The pair are called “early nurses” who “considered practice and listening to narratives to be important parts of their care.”

Seacole’s mother is incorrectly credited with managing a boarding house for “disabled British soldiers” (p 106) when she ran a small hotel for British officers. She combined “care and cure” in her “healing ministry,” a strange conclusion given that she added lead and mercury to her cholera remedy to make it more effective, and admitted “lamentable blunders” (WA p 31). Any evidence that dehydrating.

Seacole is next said to have treated British soldiers in Panama for dysentery and cholera, but the British Army was not there – her customers and patients were men on their way to the California Gold Rush. Any evidence that her “care and cure,” which entailed dehydrating bowel patients, actually cures? The effective treatment is oral rehydration therapy, the opposite of using emetics, purging from the bowels and blistering fo sweat the patient, as Seacole did.

Seacole is said, when she read newspaper reports “on the terrible conditions and high mortality rate of British soldiers fighting in the Crimea War, she immediately left for London” (p 107). A reference is given to her book, but no page number, perhaps because nowhere does such a statement appear. Rather, she acknowledged arriving in London, shortly after the first battle (September 20), or before any account of high mortality could have appeared.

She is said to have “borrowed money” to get there (p 107), although her own account states that she had capital acquired from her previous business (Wonderful Adventures, p 80). Eisler and Potter’s bizarre account has Seacole deciding to “move to the Crimean peninsula near Sebastopol” after she found out that the Barrack Hospital was in Turkey. But Seacole knew this all along; when she met Nightingale at the hospital, her passage was booked to the Crimea and she only wanted a bed for the night (WA, p 91).

Unless you can provide evidence to support the many unfounded claims made in this chapter, it should be retracted.

[ signed by 17 members of the Nightingale Society ]

To NHS Employers

NHS Employers
27 October 2016

Dear Sirs/Mesdames

Leadership and Development awards, linked to work for BME communities, is a fine idea. However, such awards should not be associated with misinformation or propaganda, as is now the case in the Mary Seacole Leadership (£12,500) and Development (£6500) awards.

You describe Seacole as a “nurse and businesswoman.” She was indeed a businesswoman, but the “nurse” is problematic, as she never called herself one, but rather used “doctress” and mixed titles like “doctress, nurse and mother” (see her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands). The plain title “nurse” she used for Nightingale and her nurses.

You mis-date the Crimean War, exaggerating it, presumably in aid of your exaggerated claims for Seacole. Turkey and Russia were at war 1853-56, but Britain joined in only in March 1854; Mrs Seacole arrived in the Crimea only in March 1855, after the worst half of the war was over.

The claim of “bravery in nursing soldiers” is a gross exaggeration, beyond even Seacole’s own claims. She gave first aid on the battlefield, post-battle, on precisely 3 occasions (she gave the dates in her memoir), after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators (her business). She visited soldiers at the closest hospital to her business, the Land Transport Corps Hospital, to distribute magazines (Punch magazine shows her in a cartoon doing this, with its magazine). However the nursing was provided, at the request of the commandant, by Nightingale’s nurses. On New Year’s Day, 1856, Seacole gave the patients at it plum puddings and mince pies. She was a generous and appreciated volunteer, in short, but this is not nursing, nor heroism.

We urge you to celebrate genuine black and minority nurses in your awards. We can give you one worthy name (no doubt there are others also deserving), Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (c1910-93), who trained at the Nightingale School and was supported by the Nightingale Fund. She nursed at St Thomas’ 1946-50, hence through the creation of the NHS. On return to Nigeria, she was appointed the first Nigerian matron of University Hospital, Ibadan, and then became the first Nigerian to be appointed chief nursing officer for her country. She was made a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in 1979, and given an honorary doctorate from the University of Ife in 1981. A biography of her is available: Justus A. Akinsanya, An African ‘Florence Nightingale’: A Biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (Ibadan: Vantage 1987).

Pratt had to overcome racism both in Britain in the NHS and in her own country, pre-independence. She would be an inspiring choice.

Sincerely yours

Mark Bostridge MA (Oxon), biographer
Robert Dingwall, PhD, FacSS, HonMFPH, prof emeritus, Nottingham University, founding director, Institute of Science and Society
Rose Dyson, EdD, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Marilyn Gendek, RN, MA, MN, FACN, consultatnt, nursing regulation and education, Australia
Marc Gilbert PhD, National Endowment in the Humanities Chair, Hawaii Pacific University; president, World History Association
Paul Hawkins (Rev), MA (Oxon) MA (Cantab)
Eileen Magnello, DPhil, research fellow, University College London
Wendy Mathews, BA, Grad Dip Phys (ret), former governor Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, LLD (hon), emerita professor, director, Collected Works of Florence Nightingale
Aroha Page, PhD, assoc professor nursing, Nipissing University
Allyson Pollock, FFPH, FRCGP, FRCP (Ed) professor, Public Health Research and Policy, Queen Mary College, London
Harold E. Raugh, Jr, Lt Col, PhD, FRHistS, FRAS, US Army, ret.
Colin Robins (Major) OBE, MA (Cantab), FRHistS, editor emeritus, War Correspondent: Journal of the Crimean War Research Society
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, MES, PhD, lecturer in environmental health, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Pat Smedley MSc (Nurs), BA Hons, RGN, former chair, Friends of the Florence Nightingale Museum
Ronald Trubuhovich, OMNZ, FRCA, FANZCA, FCICMANZ
Alex Whitehead (Rev Canon) MA, Mphil, Dip Ed, Homiletics co-ordinator, Lincoln College of Theology and Ministry

Please reply to contact@nightingalesociety.com

From Harold Raugh and Colin Robins to the Trustees of the Nightingale Museum

We, the undersigned, are military historians of some standing, both Fellows of the Royal Historical Society, who have a good knowledge of the Crimean War and the personalities connected with it.

We are therefore disappointed at your museum’s repeated emphasis on, and support of, Mary Seacole, at the expense of Florence Nightingale whose memory you should be guarding against the politically-based misinformation which is so widespread.

Mary Seacole was a sutler with a shop and small restaurant in the Crimea which she set up with a partner called Day in the Spring of 1855. There is not a shred of evidence that she ran a hospital – one of the common and totally untrue stories about her – nor that she nursed in any meaningful sense. Her ‘supporters’ have been repeatedly challenged to produce evidence in support of their claims but have not been able to do so as there is none.

A distinguished Canadian professor, Lynn McDonald, has written widely exposing the myths using Mrs Seacole’s own autobiography and has defended Florence Nightingale – a task which, properly, should have been done by you. It is Florence who is paying the museum expenses and wages.

There is a heavy responsibility on all museums not to propagate falsehoods, and in our opinions you are presently falling far short of that duty.

Yours faithfully,

Harold E. Raugh, Jr, Lt Col, PhD, FRHistS, FRAS, US Army, ret.

Colin Robins (Major) OBE, MA (Cantab), FRHistS, Editor Emeritus, The War Correspondent: Journal of the Crimean War Research Society