Posts filed under “Nightingale bicentenary”

To Sir David Cannadine

Sir David Cannadine
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
14 May 2020

Dear Sir David

We hope this letter finds you well in these difficult and unprecedented times.

We were pleased to see the greatly improved entry on Nightingale (as of August 2019), not only because the names of a number of us make it into the references. It was good to see it available for the bicentenary of her birth.

However, the flawed entry on Mary Seacole remains unchanged. As you may recall, the members of the Nightingale Society wrote you on 11 October 2016 with the details of the errors (appended). As we noted in our 2016 letter to you, the errors of the ODNB are then repeated in coverage in other places, such as English Heritage and elsewhere. We urge you make these amendments.

Can you please confirm your action on this matter?

Yours sincerely
[10 members of the Nightingale Society]

To Matt Hancock, re coronavirus and the bicentenary

Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP
Secretary of State for Health
April 2020

Dear Mr Hancock

We wish you well in your own responsibilities in the coronavirus pandemic, and in your own situation.

In this the Bicentenary year of Florence Nightingale’s birth, declared the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization, we wish to see concrete, ongoing, recognition of her important contributions. She was not only as the major founder of the modern nursing profession and a hospital reformer, but as a pioneer of evidence-based health care and an early advocate of universal access to (quality) health care. She was the first person to articulate the principles of the National Health Service, of access to quality care for all, without regard to ability to pay.

Naming the temporary coronavirus NHS hospital after Nightingale makes so much sense. However, we want to see ongoing recognition of her great contribution, such as in naming a permanent building after her and/or an annual lecture.

We seek recognition of her legacy also in the nursing leaders she inspired. This would be an ideal time to honour the first black nurse in the NHS, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-85), herself a Nightingale nurse who chose the Nightingale School for her training because of her regard for Nightingale. She began training in 1946, and was, in 1948, on the launching of the NHS, its first black nurse. Yet nurses do not know this, even nurses at the current Nightingale Faculty, housed now at King’s College, London.

These are not either/or proposals. Mrs “Rola” Pratt carried on Nightingale’s work. She was the major founder of professional nursing in Nigeria, which in turn influenced the development of nursing in Africa generally. We call on you to recognize both.

Yours sincerely

[19 members of the Nightingale Society]

to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health

Rt Hon Matt Hancock, MP
Secretary of State for Health

Dear Mr Hancock

Nightingale Society members were pleased to see recognition of Nightingale at the House of Commons at a recent event, at which your remarks were highly positive.

We are pressing for ongoing recognition of her important work, not only as the major founder of the modern nursing profession and a hospital reformer, but as a pioneer of evidence-based health care and early advocate of universal access to (quality) health care, points still little realized, especially in the nursing profession.

We have asked the NHS and the NHS Leadership Academy in particular, to recognize her with an annual award. No response.

There has been discussion about an annual Nightingale lecture at Parliament. The Department of Health could sponsor it.

We have also urged, and continue to urge, recognition of her legacy in the leadership given by later generations of nursing leaders she inspired. The top candidate, we believe, to honour, would be the Nigerian Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, a Nightingale nurse (who chose the Nightingale School for her training because of her regard for Nightingale. She began training in 1946, and was, in 1948, on the launching of the NHS, its first black nurse. Yet nurses do not know this, even nurses at the current Nightingale Faculty, housed now at King’s College, London.

These are not either/or proposals. Mrs Pratt was a Nightingale nurse, carrying on her work. She was the major founder of professional nursing in Nigeria, which in turn influenced the development of nursing in Africa generally.

Yours sincerely

(members of the Nightingale Society)

to Sir David Cannadine, director, Oxford Dictionary of National Biograpahy

Sir David Cannadine, director
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Dear Sir David

We have received no reply from you to our letter on the egregious errors in the coverage of Florence Nightingale in the ODNB. We note that the Bicentenary of her birth takes place in 2020, which will likely encourage reference to the ODNB for information. Instead, they will find a host of errors, introduced by the first editor, Colin Matthew, who fell for F.B. Smith’s (now) much discredited book, Florence Nightingale: Reputation and Power, 1982.

Why make such misleading statements, and misinform so many students, that Nightingale “continued to disregard the germ theory of infection”? when she did not.

Why continue such sexist practices as reserving surnames and honorifics for men, nicknames good enough for women?

Why omit so much important work Nightingale did? Your ODNB entry does not even discuss Notes on Hospitals or her Introductory Notes on Lying-in Institutions, both pioneer studies that were enormously influential.

Why no mention of her later writing? Which shows how much nursing and medical care had evolved, and Nightingale with it. Her 1860 Notes on Nursing was enormously influential, and so were her later works. We call for a re-write of the entry, for accuracy and relevance.

Yours sincerely
[34 members of the Nightingale Society]

to Lord Crisp, former chief executive, NHS

February 13, 2019
The Lord Crisp KCB
House of Lords

Dear Lord Crisp,

We were disappointed to see your remarks about the celebration in 2020 of the Bicentenary of Florence Nightingale, when you called for this to be the occasion to celebrate “other great nurses such as Mary Seacole.” Yet you did not state, nor have we seen any information anywhere, as to how Mary Seacole qualifies as a “great” nurse, or indeed any kind of a nurse. She was a remarkable person, but a businesswoman, and a kind hospital volunteer visitor, but never a nurse, and never claimed to be.

Would you care to name one hospital where she nursed, as opposed to distributing donated magazines (which she did at the Land Transport Corps Hospital, near her business)?

Please name any book or article on nursing she wrote, or one nursing school she founded (there are lots for Nightingale).
Can you explain how Seacole’s using lead and mercury (added to her herbal “remedies” for bowel diseases!!) is good nursing? When the cure for cholera, etc., is rehydration, why would dehydration constitute great nursing?

Do you recall that Seacole herself admitted to “lamentable blunders” in her remedies? For information on her, based on primary sources, not propaganda, see

We particularly regret your failure, and that of the Dept. of Health and the NHS, to recognize valid black nursing leaders. We recommend Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, a Nigerian who did nurse training in London, won an RCN scholarship, and was nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital when the NHS started. She was probably the first black nurse in the NHS, and she went on, after returning to Nigeria, to lead in founding professional nursing there. Why ignore her and her important work?

It is regrettable that you, as a former chief executive of the NHS, seem to have no understanding of the importance of Nightingale’s work in making the NHS possible. Are you aware that she was the first person, in 1866, to articulate the vision of quality care for all, regardless of ability to pay (in a letter to Edwin Chadwick)?.The launch of the NHS in 1948 would not have been possible if the great reforms she worked for (successfully) in the old workhouse infirmaries had not been achieved. Note that, at the time, 80% of hospital patients were in workhouses, which still had bedsharing and pauper “nurses.” There is much to celebrate in Nightingale’s work, but you mentioned nothing. She was a pioneer in evidence-based health care, surely a concern of today.

We would be glad to provide you with a briefing on Nightingale and Seacole. Indeed we would be glad to debate you publicly on the subject.

Yours sincerely
[34 members of the Nightingale Society]

Partners 2020 Planning Meeting

Held Nov. 12 2018 in London at the Wellcome Trust. Eileen Magnello (our link to the Royal Statistical Society) and Lynn McDonald (by telephone) took part. Partners reported on their plans for 2020, and some are TERRIFIC! Deva Marie Beck reported for NIGH (Nightingale Initiative for Global Health) on a feature film, well along in planning. NIGH material shows the relevance of Nightingale to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Museums are planning major exhibits and travelling exhibits to other cities. The University of Nottingham project reported on plans for schools outreach in the Midlands, and possibly a film on Nightingale’s homecoming after the Crimean War. The British Library will exhibit Nightingale artifacts throughout 2020.

• See the link to the report for more details.

Nightingale Bicentenary planning meeting

At the Royal Statistical Society, 12 March 2018

Present: Richard Bates, Robert Dingwall, Yuko Leung, Lynn McDonald,  Eileen Magnello, Jonathan Menem, Chris Pettet, Pat Smedley, Alex Whitehead

Regrets: Mark Bostridge, Stephanie Davies (Leeds), Sapiah Binti Abdul Hadi (Malaysia)Joan Thomson (N. Ireland),

University of Nottingham project on Nightingale for 2020:

Directed by Paul Crawford. The two post-doctoral fellows, Richard Bates and Jonathan Menem, are working for this project described it to us: it is an ambitious and well-funded, three-year project on Nightingale relating to the Nottingham area. We will co-operate in all possible ways with it.

Nightingale Bicentenary Plans:

Eileen Magnello reported on the work to date of the wider Bicentenary committee, chaired by David Green, the new director of the Florence Nightingale Museum. She is particularly working towards a major exhibition and meeting at the Science Museum, London, as well as a one-day meeting at the Royal Statistical Society.

Reports were given on initiatives in planning for Australia, via a report from Marilyn Gendek, and for Canada, from Carolyn Edgar. The Rev Chris Pettet, Vicar at Nightingale’s church in Wellow, Hampshire (where she is buried) reported on their project of a new window in her honour at the church. They regularly hold a commemorative service at the time of her birthday.

Lynn McDonald reported on the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation conference, held on the preceding week-end in London (she was giving a paper). The conference provided an opportunity to renew contacts with Commonwealth nurses and midwives from the conference of 2016, and to let many active nurses and midwives know about our group and plans for the Bicentenary.

Objectives for the Bicentenary: we agreed on our objective being a celebration of Nightingale’s work not fixed on the past, but flagging her ongoing relevance. She was, as well as the major founder of the modern profession of nursing, a pioneer of evidence-based health care, safer hospital architecture, health promotion and access to quality health care for all, regardless of ability to pay. Her work in statistics makes her a model for girls to go into maths and stats; she supported suffrage, education and economic opportunities for women, again ongoing issues.

From Dr Peter Carter, RCN

Dear Wendy,

Thank you for your letter concerning Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and Edith Cavell.

I am not entirely clear what has prompted you to write now, when the Nursing Standard articles to which you refer were published in 2014 and 2013.

Although part of the RCN family, Nursing Standard is editorially independent and it is neither in my gift, nor would it be appropriate, to seek to direct their reporting on this matter. The RCN honours the different and distinctive legacies of these three important figures and I find it sad and a little perplexing that so much energy is devoted to controversy over their respective merits and historical significance.

The RCN works with the Florence Nightingale Foundation, providing support for its annual conference and commemorative events and also puts its full weight behind international nurses’ day which falls on Miss Nightingale’s birthday. We support the Mary Seacole awards and will be working with the Cavell Trust to mark the 100th anniversary of her death.

Personally I am a huge admirer of Florence Nightingale. This woman in my view is one of the most iconic people in British history over the past best part of 200 years. Her pioneering nursing work is unparalleled and is something to celebrate and cherish. Her ‘Notes on Nursing’ (1860) are as relevant today as they would have been all those years ago. Her use of statistics was pioneering as was her work on sanitation. A true woman of innovation and vision.

I am however not willing to see the RCN drawn into “taking sides” in this debate which I believe reflects rather badly on the spirit of generosity which is a hallmark of nursing.

Yours sincerely

Dr Peter Carter OBE
Chief Executive & General Secretary
Royal College of Nursing

From NHS England

RE: Bicentenary of the Birth of Florence Nightingale 2020 Mary Seacole Campaign

Thank you for your letter which NHS England received on 8 April 2015.

Your correspondence has been passed to the Case Management Team that manages correspondence for the Chief Executive, Chairman and Directors and a case officer will provide you with an update in due course.

If you require any further information or wish to speak to someone about your case, please contact NHS England at the email address and telephone number shown below quoting the reference number CAS-07122.

Yours faithfully

NHS England
PO Box 16738 | Redditch | B97 9PT

To Simon Stevens, CEO, NHS

Simon Stevens, CEO
National Health Service
PO Box 16738 Reddich B97 9PT
April 5, 2015

Dear Mr Stevens

Re: Bicentenary of the Birth of Florence Nightingale 2020
Mary Seacole Campaign

We are writing to raise two related issues with you and your colleagues: celebration of the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale in 2020, and the complication of the active campaign for Mary Seacole to be recognized as an “equal nurse,” “pioneer nurse” and even “pioneer health service” provider, titles awarded her variously by the Dept of Health, by NHS Employers, the RCN, etc.

We see little prospect of an appropriate celebration while the denigration of Nightingale continues. Nurses did not start it, but no nurse, nursing or health care organization defended Nightingale when she was accused, in a BBC “educational” programme no less, of discriminating against Seacole on the basis of race. We did, and eventually the BBC Trustees ruled that the programme was “materially inaccurate.”

The Department of Health named leadership programmes in public health after Seacole in 2013, although it has never said what she pioneered, and we are aware of nothing that would qualify. Nightingale, of course, pioneered much, as the major founder of the modern profession of nursing and the visionary, in 1864, of the NHS itself, that is, of the provision of quality care to all, including those unable to pay.

The listing of Seacole with Edward Jenner, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Aneurin Bevan, omitting Nightingale, is peculiar to say the least. It was Nightingale who first set out the goal of quality care for all, and did so much to improve care for the neediest. The old workhouse infirmaries were turned into real hospitals, in time with nurse training schools themselves.

A letter we sent to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, May 20 2013, made these points, and received no answer.

The NHS Employers could give us no answer either, but rather complained that we were too fussy about accuracy in research (NHS letter of 30 July 2013). The RCN CEO and president, likewise, declined to answer our request for particulars.

The Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust had no answer to our queries (of 2012 and 2013) as to what Seacole did as “Britain’s black heroine who gave her life’s work in support of its early development,” a statement it issued as research background for its board (20 July 2011). In fact, Seacole did not give a day of her life to develop nursing in England, or elsewhere: she was a businesswoman, a caterer with an informal practice of over-the-counter herbals on the side.

We note also that the inordinate focus on Seacole has the unhappy result of sidelining genuine black and minority nurses who gave leadership. (See Lynn McDonald, Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014 for bios of several who deserve recognition.)

We would particularly urge you to consider Mrs K.A. Pratt, a Nigerian Nightingale nurse who trained in England on an RCN scholarship. She was likely the first black nurse in the NHS when it opened in 1948. She subsequently became chief nursing officer in Nigeria, where she led in the development of professional nursing, with Nigerian nurses.

We hope that you will celebrate Nightingale’s bicentenary and ask that you turn the matter over to the appropriate people for planning. We ask you to review all Mary Seacole promotional material you use. Mrs Seacole was a spunky person who led a remarkable life that deserves celebration. It is unfortunate that she should be credited with Nightingale’s achievements. She deserves better than to have her life hijacked for a political campaign, even if its purpose, of improving diversity in nursing, is a worthy one. There are better means for doing this.

We would argue, finally, that the challenges of health care today are such as to ensure the ongoing relevance of Nightingale’s principles and standards. Environmental health, safe hospitals and the creative use of good research to improve policy were her specialties.

Yours sincerely