[February 5, 2016]
The Nightingale Society wishes to alert members of the Royal British Legion that the British army has been approached to support a memorial garden for health workers who put their lives “in harm’s way” in conflict zones or epidemics. The proposal is to link the garden to the Mary Seacole statue planned for St. Thomas’ Hospital, London.
A Memorial Garden is commendable, the Society notes, but it should not be associated with Seacole, a business owner who ran a club for officers during the Crimean War. She was an independent and generous person, but not a nurse, let alone a “pioneer nurse,:” as is often claimed. Mrs. Seacole ventured onto the battlefield on precisely three occasions, post-battle, after serving wine and sandwiches to spectators.
St. Thomas’ Hospital was, for more than a century, home of the Nightingale School, the first training school for nurses in the world. It was named for Florence Nightingale, who, with her team of nurses, put her life in harm’s way to nurse British soldiers and clean up the filthy army hospitals. The Nightingale Society, whose members include historians and biographers of both Nightingale and Seacole, has alerted the Chiefs of the Defence Staff and General Staff of its objections but to date has received no reply.
An appropriate place should be found for a memorial garden. The proposed site, the Society warns, could become the venue for “History Hoax” awards. It would be wrong to associate dedicated health workers with a political propaganda campaign. Should the British Army lend its name to such a flagrant disregard of the facts?
For further information:
Lynn McDonald, PhD, LLD (hon), emerita professor and author, Mary Seacole: the Making of a Myth (Iguana 2014), firstname.lastname@example.org tel. (Toronto) 416 944-9334