Mini-meeting in Toronto August 2019
Attention to Canadian and American members: A mini-meeting is planned for Toronto August 26-27, to focus on getting American and Canadian participation in the Bicentenary. Anyone based in Toronto who could take part in person, for some of the meeting, or who could take part by telephone, please let us know. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bank of England has just announced that Alan Turing will be on the fifty-pound banknote — a most worthy choice as the founder of computer science and a persecuted gay man.
The Mary Seacole campaign had campaigned vigorously for her to be on the banknote. In December last year, the Nightingale Society wrote the governor of the Bank of England opposing that choice, pointing out the misinformation made in the claim, but not advocating for any other person.
More Propaganda on Seacole, from the Medical Profession
Another medical knight gets it wrong on Nightingale. Professor Nick Black, inaugural chair of the Health Services Research and Services Network at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was knighted in 2012 for his services to health care, His book, Walking London’s Medical History, includes Mary Seacole, for her contribution “to the health care history,” not that he said what it was. Black repeats the misinformation that Seacole was “rejected by the British authorities,” and “dismissed ungraciously by Florence Nightingale,” but nonetheless nursed “the wounded” even on the battlefield. Nightingale, meanwhile, was 300 miles away from the action! I have written him (see below) and will pass on his reply.
Black’s misinformation was repeated uncritically in a review of the book by Michael A. Patton, in the Ulster Medical Journal (2008). The book itself was published by the Royal Society of Medicine. The only references to Nightingale in either the book or the review are negative.
Anyone who is in touch with Sir Nick (who evidently is a highly capable person), this is worth pursuing!
Dear Sir Nick,
While your Walking London’s Medical History came out in 2006, I only recently saw it and wish to write you for some background. You are extremely complimentary to Mary Seacole, but what exactly was her contribution to “health care history”? Her addition of toxic metals (lead and mercury) to herbal remedies? Her “lamentable blunders”? Her use of dehydration for bowel patients? (all described in her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857; see especially Chapter 4).
You state that she “based herself on the actual battlefield” — really? According to her book, she made it onto the battlefield on only three occasions, in a two-year war, all post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. You have her “rejected by the British authorities,” but in her book she never claimed to have submitted the required application (they are on file at the National Archives, Kew), and she only started her informal dropping into offices to look for a post after Nightingale and her team and even a second team, had left. If you have any hard information to support your contentions, please say. Mrs Seacole’s main activity was selling meals and wines to army officers, and catering their dinner parties.
Your only remarks about Nightingale are negative, even the line that she called Seacole a “brothel-keeping quack,” where? This is said in the Seacole propaganda, but do tell where Nightingale actually said it. You have Nightingale, by contrast with Seacole, “300 miles from the action, across the Black Sea,” But Nightingale was nursing; leading the nursing; and reforming the unsanitary hospitals, where she was sent by the War Office. Her actions saved lives! And contributed to health care history, for she did a massive analysis of what went wrong and published it, and worked for change based on the lessons learned. Some would call this evidence-based health care.
Since next year, 2020, will be the bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth, I wonder if you might be prepared to take a serious look at her contribution and publish something that relates it.
I am writing on behalf of the Nightingale Society, and will circulate your response to our members.