|The Nightingale Society|
|Newsletter||2 October 2012|
The Nightingale Society has been active sending out letters to responsible people concerned with the proposed Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital. We continue to make clear that we do not oppose honouring Seacole, but rather a massive statue, labelled “Pioneer Nurse,” at Nightingale’s hospital–it sends the wrong message. We continue to deplore the use of misinformation in promoting Seacole and the denigration of Nightingale by comparison.
The first set of letters we sent are noted in the Newsletter of August 2012.
The next lot went to the Queen (in case she is asked to unveil the statue), the new secretary of state for health (the previous gave us a disappointing reply), the head of the National Army Museum (which has one of the most erroneous websites) and the secretary of state for education (on misinformation provided in teaching Seacole, and the linking of her with Nightingale in the national curriculum, which inevitably means omitting most of what Nightingale did).
All these letters (first and second sets) can be seen on the website. They were signed by six of us, who represent a good cross-section of concerned opinion and expertise: two nurses (one retired), two historians (one on science, one military), a physiotherapist (also former Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital governor) and myself, a university academic and editor of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale.
Unison. The healthcare union Unison, which is also the U.K.’s largest trades union, has been a major force not only for denigrating Nightingale (which it started doing in 1999) but now in promoting Seacole. The reasons it has given are bizarre, that Nightingale was white, middle class and Protestant, when Seacole was three quarters white, also middle class, but now Roman Catholic. They do not seem to have any idea that Nightingale was a pioneering advocate of public health care and an early advocate for occupational health and safety for nurses.
The four of us with health care connections (the above group, minus the historians) have sent Unison a letter urging a re-thinking of Nightingale, and sent a Did You Know? list with it, showing what Nightingale actually did on nursing. Help yourself and pass it along!
My article on Nightingale and Seacole for History Today came out in its September 2012 issue. You can read it on the Nightingale Society website.
— Dr Lynn McDonald