|The Nightingale Society|
|Newsletter||27 April 2020|
By Lynn McDonald, co-founder
Nightingale Frontline Awards, anyone?
After the first five “NHS Nightingale Hospitals,” in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Harrogate and Bristol, the next two temporary hospitals have been announced for Exeter and Sunderland.
The suggestion has been made that there should be awards for frontline workers, taken up by the Daily Mirror and Keir Starmer, leader of the Official Opposition. These would suitably be called “Nightingale Awards” or “Nightingale Frontline Awards.” Anyone with any idea of how to promote this? Twitter? Other social media?
Joan Thompson, our member in Belfast, advises that two hospitals in Belfast have been designated Nightingale hospitals. Both have direct links with Nightingale:
- The first is the Mater Infirmorum Hospital (opened 1900, with Nightingale’s ‘pearl’ as matron of the training school; Angelique Lucille Pringle).
- The second is Belfast City Hospital, which had been the Belfast Workhouse Infirmary when the first head nurse (appointed 1884) was Ella Pirrie. Nightingale mentored her, when a lot of encouragement was needed to take on such a post.
Halleluia! The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Has Seen the Light!!!
For many years Nightingale researchers have badgered the editor(s) of the ODNB to revise drastically, or commission a new entry, on Nightingale. The one in the original edition, of 2004, was written by the late Monica Baly, but revised considerably by the then editor, C.G. Matthew, who was an ardent follower of the late F.B. Smith (the most erroneous author of Nightingale material). While Baly had cited Smith’s nasty Florence Nightingale: Reputation and Power¸ 1982, twice, Matthew added 13 more, mainly erroneous.
The second editor, Lawrence Goldman, removed some of the most obvious errors, but was content to let most of them remain. The next editor, Sir David Cannadine, did not even reply to our various complaints—he himself had nasty comments on Nightingale, from the usual secondary sources, in his publication on Nightingale, History in our Time (not all bad, but rude and sarcastic, while F.B. Smith argued “cogently”).
The negative take on Nightingale in the ODNB has resulted in many other sources being negative, too. Complaints to them got the reply that the used the ODNB as a source, and it is considered to be a reliable source. Usually it is.
The entry was considerably corrected and added to (almost doubled) n August 2019, in time for the Bicentenary. Herewith some of the positives:
- No. 1, the numerous references to the late F.B. Smith have been greatly diminished. An obsequious reference to him as “Professor Smith,” was dropped.
- No. 2, the sexism has been corrected: Nightingale was frequently “Florenced,” even when her work was clearly that of an adult, indeed an established expert; men routinely got surnames and titles.
- No. 3. The all-too-frequent mis-statement that Nightingale “continued to disregard germ theory” was dropped, with now a parenthetical “(which she later acknowledged).” A statement that she was old at age sixty, 1880, that she “tried to keep up on public health matters but she was increasingly out-of-date” was omitted. Some of her best articles on public health are late, two for the U.K. and U.S.: “Scavenge, scavenge, scavenge” (1884); “Sick- nursing and health-nursing” (1893), and five short articles on India: “Village Sanitation,” 1887 and 1892 (10:322-26); “Letter on Sanitation,” 1888 (9:935-37); “Sanitation in India,” 1891 (10:362-65); “Village Sanitation in India,” 1894 (10:380-84); and “Health Missioners for Rural India,” 1896 (10:389-92).
- No. 4, material from numerous primary sources was added. Only the first volume of the Collected Works was cited in the original entry (although 7 had been published by 2004); now all 16 are. There is now substantially more on Nightingale’s work, on workhouse reform, midwifery and India.
- No. 5, serious secondary sources have been added: Mark Bostridge’s biography, a paper by Eileen Magnello, and articles by nursing historians Anne-Marie Rafferty, Carol Helmstadter and Judith Godden.
- No. 6, a nasty error that Nightingale quit working on workhouse reform in 1868 was dropped. Baly made the mistake, not picked up by Matthew. Nightingale, in fact, continued to make a crucial contribution to workhouse reform for 30 years more. She succeeded in getting trained nurses into workhouse infirmaries, first Holborn in 1870, then St Marylebone, Birmingham and Belfast. She mentored the matrons of those workhouse infirmaries (Annie Hill, Elizabeth Vincent, Mary Cadbury and Ella Pirrie) and then also the later matrons at Liverpool (A.P. de Laney, Anne Gibson and Izalina Huguenin). She also got improvements in hospital buildings. Getting these reforms required the commitment of the Board of Guardians at the workhouse, and Nightingale worked successfully with all those who were willing. One late hospital reformer, Sydney Holland, recorded a meeting with her in 1897, when she told him not to be discouraged by the snubs of government officials: “Keep what you know is right before you and never cease trying to get it. Aim high and people will follow you in the end.” She finished with: “No, no one can be neutral in this life; you are either doing good or bad, and the very fact of not trying to do good is bad in itself” (cited in 12:512). Yet Baly and Matthew have Nightingale turning into a “reactionary” in old age!
Negatives: numerous minor errors remain, that is, factually incorrect statements, but not such as to be disparaging to Nightingale:
- “The Crimean War broke out in March 1854,” when that is when the French and British governments declared war, then not expected to be in the Crimea. The armies only invaded the Crimea in September 1854.
- a statement that every viceroy went to see her before leaving for India (she was glad that she never met with Lord Lytton).
- there are still odd headings, such as “Religion and Attitude to Women,” where germ theory is included!
- Tired old sources like Strachey are still there, and better sources, based on primary source research (such as Seymer and O’Malley) still aren’t.
The Historiography remains disappointing, completely omitting the years of attack on Nightingale, as “revisionists,” but who based on inaccurate secondary sources. It omits the startling fact that such nursing journals as Nursing Standard and the British Journal of Nursing decided not to publish positive articles on Nightingale, having chosen to feature Mary Seacole as a valid nursing leader.
The Historiography instead kept to its original line that Nightingale was “enigmatic,” and exaggerate her words on being “in” or “out” of office as “frustration” from not having power.
It downplays her achievements (and considerable work) in establishing nursing as a profession, instead calling it “a slow inevitable process,” and cites Baly on Nightingale being a “mixed blessing” in nursing—who else could have done it, one wonders.