Archive for September, 2018

To Kate Pankhurst, author, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World (2016)

To Kate Pankhurst
Spinning Mill Studios, 2nd floor
Spinning Mill, Sunny Bank Mills
Farsley, Leeds LS28 5UJ

Dear Ms Pankhurst

We are disappointed with the shoddy, inaccurate coverage you give to Mary Seacole in your book, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, 2016. Mrs Seacole was certainly a fine person, independent, generous and interesting, but how did she change the world? Certainly nothing that she described of her own life in her memoir, an excellent book, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. There she portrays herself as an adventurer—a keen observer of the world—and kind and resourceful in tough circumstances, but hardly anything more.

Moreover, her “remedies” are questionable at the very least. She gave a recipe for only one, to which she added lead and mercury, toxic substances at any strength, and not good for cholera and bowel diseases in particular. Indeed, she acknowledged “lamentable blunders” in her memoir (see p 31).

A “nurse”? But she never called herself a “nurse,” although she did use “doctress, nurse and mother” as a descriptor, but “nurse” was for Nightingale and her nurses. Do you realize that Seacole never nursed one day in any hospital in any country? Nor did she claim to have in her book. She describes assisting officers and men on the battlefield (on 3 occasions, not routinely), and she gave tea to soldiers waiting transport to the general hospitals—but never inside. Nor did she nurse in any hospital in Jamaica—she describes being invited to, but declining. Read the book carefully!

You state, incorrectly: “This nurse [NO!] set up her own hospital in the Crimea during the Crimean War”…. But in her book she said she planned to establish a “hotel,” never a hospital, and did not even do that (Chapter VIII). Instead, she had huts put up for a bar/restaurant/store/takeaway/catering service, for officers. Quite different.

You then state that she was “turned down” as an official nurse, carelessly not noticing that she only applied for a post, informally, AFTER Nightingale and her nurses had left, indeed after the second team of nurses had left. Mrs Seacole did not apply early, even though she was in London, as she was busy on her gold investments, which she makes clear in the book.

You state that Nightingale “nursed soldiers in the Crimean War” (she did a lot more than that) and that Seacole “did the same and at her own expense”!! Hardly, she ran a business, in which she invested from her earnings from her previous business, as did her business partner.

The point “because as a black woman” raises a more complex issue, for Mrs Seacole did not identify as black, but “yellow” or fair-skinned. Like white Jamaicans, she employed blacks. She travelled with two black servants and employed black cooks at her business. Rather off what you say.

It is particularly grating to see a descendant of the great suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst get Nightingale wrong—an early supporter of the vote for women (1866), who signed numerous petitions for the vote who did much to improve education for women, started nurse training and made nursing the best-paid occupation for women at the time.

If your book is re-published, you should ensure that these gross errors are corrected. You should apologize for misleading people—a children’s book! A bit much to expect children to check out sources, when the author can’t be bothered!

Yours sincerely
[19 members of the Nightingale Society]

Re: honouring Kofoworola Abeni Pratt in Black History Month

Black History Month
for March 2019
Patrick Vernon, OBE, editor
and Ian Thomas, Got a story?

We wish to propose that Black History Month celebrate the important contribution of a much neglected nursing leader, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (c1910-93), a Nigerian who trained at the Nightingale School in London, after working first as a teacher in Nigeria. She nursed at St Thomas’ 1946-50, or the time of the opening of the National Health Service. Hence she was either the first black nurse in the NHS, or in the first cohort.

She experienced racial discrimination in the course, but it was dealt with.

Back in Nigeria, Pratt became the first Nigerian matron of University Hospital, Ibadan, and then the first Nigerian to be appointed chief nursing officer for her country;

There is a biography on her by a Nigerian nurse, Justus A. Akinsanya, An African ‘Florence Nightingale’: A Biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (Ibadan: Vantage 1987).

Yours sincerely
[19 members of the Nightingale Society]

To Blaise Simqu, Sage Publications

To: Blaise Simqu
Sage Publications Inc
2455 Teller Rd.
Thousand Oaks CA 91320

Dear Mr Simqu

We are writing with concern about seriously false and misleading material in a Sage book, Leadership in Health Care, and ask you to communicate this to the authors, Jill Barr and Lesley Dowding.

One might expect a book entitled Leadership in Health Care make the distinction between providing leadership in health care, as Florence Nightingale did, and running a business for customers, as Mary Seacole did during the Crimean War–however nicely she did it. But they get it spectacularly wrong, without ever citing a reference!

While Nightingale was leading the nursing, cleaning up hospitals and establishing laundries and kitchens for the sick soldiers, these authors have her “collecting data.” When did she have the time? (She did analyze data, post-Crimea, but the data were collected by the War Office.) They also have her in the wrong country: the Barrack Hospital was in Turkey–the war was in the Crimea, 300 miles away.

They go further off in listing Seacole in “leaders in health care,” immediately after Nightingale, as if she ranked second. However, as her own book, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (a good read) made abundantly clear, she ran a restaurant/bar/store/takeaway and catering service at commercial prices for officers. How does this qualify as health care? They repeat the common misinformation (no source given) that Seacole was “refused an interview to go to the Crimea). Check her Chapter VIII: She never applied, but only dropped in casually to various offices concerned with the war, after the nurses had left. What does it mean to be “refused” when you never applied?

If you want to call someone a nurse, should you not say where and when they nursed?

Not done with it, and again without a reference, Barr and Dowding have Seacole “held up as one of the first black women leaders.” What did she lead? Her business sadly failed. Her remedies were doubtful at best–she admitted to “lamentable blunders” (p 31), which adding lead and mercury to herbal preparations would be–lead and mercury are toxic in any dose. For other examples of Seacole misinformation online, see For a book, see Lynn McDonald, Mary Seacole: The Making of a Myth (Toronto: Iguana 2014).

There is a lot of other silliness in Leadership in Health Care, but these bloopers are really inexcusable. The authors should retract them and apologize for misleading their readers. They should delete the material in any subsequent edition, or get it right.

Yours sincerely
[19 members of the Nightingale Society]