Historians urge PM to alter plan for Seacole statue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 19, 2016

London: The Nightingale Society has written to PM Cameron expressing concern about the use of public money, £240,000 promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for a statue of Mary Seacole. Their objections centre on the false description of Seacole as a “Pioneer Nurse” and on its planned placement at St Thomas’ Hospital, site for more than a century of Florence Nightingale’s first training school for nurses in the world.

Seacole and Nightingale were both in the Crimea at the same time. While Nightingale was overseeing the nursing care and nutrition of sick and wounded soldiers, Seacole was running, a (for-profit) club for officers. While acknowledging that Seacole, known as an enterprising and kind businesswoman, deserves to be celebrated, the Society points out that “providing champagne, fine wines and catering for officers’ dinner parties should not be confused with nursing.”

The letter to Prime Minister Cameron also criticizes the plan for the statue to face the Houses of Parliament since it was Nightingale who wrote briefs for committees and pressed MPs and Cabinet ministers for reforms in nursing, hospitals and health care.

The Society, which includes well-known historians and biographers, urges the government to make the grant contingent on a more appropriate site being found for the Seacole statue and warns that, if the statue is erected at St Thomas’ Hospital, the site risks becoming a target for ridicule, as a “History Hoax.”

The timing is inordinately embarrassing, they add, for the bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth will be celebrated in 2020, “presumably not at her hospital – shame!”

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The letter to Cameron can been seen here.

For further information contact Lynn McDonald, PhD, LLD (hon), Professor Emerita; Director, Collected Works of Florence Nightingale; author, Mary Seacole: the Making of a Myth (Iguana 2014); contact@nightingalesociety.com tel 07500186634