Kindly pass on this letter to those connected with the Marys Seacole biodrama –- writer, director, actors, etc. Please note that we the undersigned, all living some distance from New York, have not seen the performance, but are using reviews in the New York Times and the New Yorker as the sources for our concerns.
Mary Seacole was a remarkable, independent, woman and many good things can be said of her, but your biodrama repeats an all too frequent, but false, accusation against Nightingale, as “haughty,” with “an icy sneer.” Seacole’s own memoir reports only one encounter with her, when she asked Nightingale for a bed for the night at her (overcrowded) hospital, and got one. Seacole was on her way to the Crimea to join her business partner to start their business. The encounter was entirely friendly, according to Seacole.
The “tireless work on the battlefields” is a gross distortion. Seacole’s memoir shows that she missed the first three, major battles of the war–she was in London attending to her gold investments. She was present for three later battles, thus was on the battlefield on three occasions, in each case for at most a few hours, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. Perilous? Hardly, and many people went onto the battlefield post-battle.
Nurse and healer? But Seacole herself admitted adding lead and mercury to her “herbal” remedies, and frankly admitted that she had made “lamentable blunders.” Lead and mercury are both toxic in any quantity, and counter-productive for bowel patients. We might suggest that a more honest presentation would also be of greater interest.
That this is the Lincoln Center is particularly inappropriate. Nightingale was a leading anti-racist. Her grandfather worked with William Wilberforce on the abolition of slavery. Her material for war hospitals was used by the United States Army in the Civil War. She wrote on the disappearance of the Australian aboriginal races. She supported Indian nationals in their struggles. She wrote a campaign letter for the first Asian to be elected to Parliament, etc.
Chris Brice, Rev., Church of England priest
Gerald Calver, B.A. (Hons.), legal costdraughtsman
Ann Cameron, PhD, professor emerita of developmental psychology
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
Charlene Harrington, PhD, Professor emeritus, UCSF
Susan James, MA, international development professional
Lynn McDonald, PhD, LLD (hon), emerita professor
Aroha Page, PhD, assoc professor nursing, Nipissing University
Rev. Chris Pettet, Vicar, St. Margaret’s, Wellow
Harold E. Raugh, Jr, Lt Col, PhD, FRHistS, FRAS, US Army, ret
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, MES, PhD, lecturer, env. health
Deborah Tregunno, RN, PhD, assoc. professor, School of Nursing
Joan Thompson, OBE, RRC, BA (hons), SRN
Gwyneth Watkins, MA, retired teacher
Bruce Webber R.N. (ret.)