Archive for June, 2022

Newsletter 2022:04

by Lynn McDonald, co-founder | June 23, 2022

The Marylebone Festival, 17-22 July in London

Among the services and concerts for this week of festivities in central London, note July 22, 10:30 am: Walking Tour: Florence Nightingale Pioneer and Innovator meet at Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly; then at 1.10 pm: St Marylebone Parish Church, The Two Nightingales, The Curious Story of Florence Nightingale; Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, with Amanda Pitt (soprano), Gavin Roberts (piano), and Sarah Gabriel (actor). Jenny Lind, a great singer, also gave concerts to raise money for the Nightingale Fund, towards the founding of her school.

Visit the Florence Nightingale Museum to see her Crimean War carriage

Thanks to John Shallcross for forwarding a picture of the (captured) Russian carriage commandeered by chef Alexis Soyer, so that Nightingale could (easily) visit the war hospitals in the Crimea in 1855. Soyer then had the carriage sent back to London.

My last book on Nightingale!

When the 16 volumes of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale were all out, in 2012, that was to be the end. Four short books came out subsequently to make her material more accessible. Now, in 2022, the last one has just been published, Florence Nightingale and the Medical Men: Working Together for Health Care Reform, McGill-Queen’s University Press. This is full circle, for McGill-Queen’s published my Early Origins of the Social Sciences, 1993, which has a section on Nightingale, as a social scientist, my first publication on her.

Florence Nightingale and the Medical Men also includes some material on women doctors (they don’t appear until Chapter 6). It was men doctors, however, who helped her get nursing started as a profession and worked with her on getting out the data on the Crimean War deaths, and how they were brought down. It was men doctors, also, who worked with her for years after on hospital safety and the broader public health reforms.

The book also has material—different from anything published before—on the state registration of nurses. Altogether, it reports on issues of interest, but not covered elsewhere.

Let your library know about it!

The Nightingale Society: North America

Nurses and Nightingale supporters in the United States and Canada are invited to join this group, for occasional email updates and zoom meetings. Next meeting June 28 by Zoom 3 p.m. (EDT). Reply to

Letter: Human rights and Florence Nightingale

To: Dawn Armstrong, VP Human Rights and Equity
To: Cathryn Hoy, President, ONA

21 June 2022

Dear Ms Armstrong and Ms Hoy

I was sorry and somewhat embarrassed to see the proposal that ONA drop all reference to Florence Nightingale in International Nursing Week, etc., on account of her “mistakes,” unspecified. I am the director of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, 16 volumes, peer-reviewed, so I have read everything she wrote that is now available (thousands of letters an documents). I have never seen anything that would qualify as a “mistake.” She is sometimes blamed for not discovering germ theory before Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister, but that is ridiculous!

There are two obvious sources for the accusation, Stake-Doucet’s blog on Nightingale, and an article in the journal of  the New Zealand Nurses Organization, both 2021, and neither with any concrete examples of fault—mere accusations. I emailed Ms Stake-Doucet to ask her for any examples, and she eventually) replied that she was not working on the subject any more and would not reply to my question. The New Zealand Nurses could not be found by email! Both, only a month after their article appeared, had left the New Zealand Nurses Organization. The journal, however, published my article of rebuttal (which does contain sources). A link to it is provided below.

I would be happy to meet with your organization, or any ONA board or other members, in person or by zoom, to give you a briefing.

The timing seems especially unfortunate. With Canadians becoming aware of the horrors of residential schools, nurses should be proud of the fact that a nurse, Nightingale, was the first person to expose the high rates of disease and death at such schools, not only in Canada (13 in Ontario), but Australia, Africa and Ceylon. Yes, Nightingale believed that black lives matter, and Indigenous lives matter. She tried to get the Colonial Office to follow up on her findings, but they did not.

Nightingale grew up in a progressive family—her grandfather worked with William Wilberforce on the abolition of slavery. She did a lot to get access for South Asian women to health care—when women would not see a male doctor—and so went without care.

The first black nurse in Britain’s National Health Service, the Nigerian Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, was a “Nightingale nurse,” that is, she trained at the Nightingale School in London, founded by Nightingale, because she was inspired by her.

Might I add that I strongly support you as a union. Every time I get asked about nurses (I am not a nurse myself) I say that nurses are under-paid and not given the respect they deserve for the work they do. Nightingale herself was a strong advocate for good salaries, benefits, a month’s holiday and, for nurses in the military, officer status—all this before there were unions.

yours sincerely

Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, professor emerita

Additional reading on this website:
Florence Nightingale: A Leading Anti-Racist — The Nightingale Society
Defending Florence Nightingale’s Reputation (Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand) — The Nightingale Society