Posts filed under “History of nursing”

Newsletter 2022:01

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | February 4, 2022

More Seacole misinformation—a new low!
Seacole founded nurse training!

A British nurse, trained at Guy’s Hospital, emailed me with the following:

“I have just read Seacole’s autobiography and am astounded how her status is considered equal to Florence Nightingale. I was prompted to read this when recently my 14 year old grandson said ‘Oh Mary Seacole …she is the British nurse who started teaching Nursing in England’  …He had not heard of Florence!! So I am prompted to investigate further. Your attempts to write the wrongs are to be applauded.”

Letter to the chief nurse, Guy’s Hospital 

The following letter, co-signed by 19 people, has been sent to Avey Bhatia, chief nurse at Guy’s Hospital

2 February 2022

Dear Ms Bhatia

Re: Should NHS hospitals hand out false information, pandemic or not?

We believe that NHS hospitals, and indeed everybody in health care and elsewhere, should be responsible and accurate in their claims, pandemic or not.

Guy’s Hospital currently has a fine picture of Mary Seacole on display—nothing wrong with the picture, but Mary Seacole had nothing to do with Guy’s Hospital, or any other hospital in any country. And why a “Seacole House” there?

Mrs Seacole was a celebrity, a successful businesswoman (most of the time), an adventurous traveller, author of an engaging travel memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands¸1857. If you read it, you will see that she was not a nurse, nor ever claimed to be. She called herself “doctress,” meaning herbalist, but admitted adding toxic metals to her “remedies,” lead and mercury. She admitted “lamentable blunders,” which would certainly apply to her practice of de-hydrating bowel patients. She was a generous volunteer and a fine person, so much so that, when her business in the Crimean War failed, officers, her customers, rallied around to raise money for her to retire and live well. She, with a business partner, ran a for-profit restaurant/bar/catering service for officers, not quite a hospital for ordinary soldiers.

The massive statue of her at St Thomas’ Hospital calls her “Crimean War nurse,” which she was not. Now Guy’s, in the same NHS Foundation Trust as St Thomas’, follows in the mis-representation. For accurate information on Seacole, based on the use of primary sources, see Mary Seacole Information – Introduction .

The NHS itself and its hospitals correctly want to celebrate diversity and inclusion, but this should be done with honesty. The choice of a celebrated non-nurse has as a consequence neglect of genuine black and other minority nursing leaders. The favourite of the Nightingale Society is the Nigerian Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse in the NHS, on its opening in July 1948. Unlike Mrs Seacole, Mrs Pratt was a trained nurse (at the Nightingale School),who then took extra certificates and worked as a midwife as well. There is a full biography of her by another noted Nigerian nurse, Justus Akinsanya, An African “Florence Nightingale”: A Biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt. For a short bio, see Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria — The Nightingale Society .

Mrs Pratt is especially good as a role model as nurses become nurse practitioners and work in policy and administration. She led the way for Nigerian nurses to take over the top jobs in nursing in Nigeria (previously held by white, British ex-patriate women). Pratt went on to become the first nurse anywhere to become minister of health for her country or state—in Lagos State 1973-75. We encourage you to promote her as a worthy role model.

Question: Nightingale Society Meeting by Zoom?

The Nightingale Society has normally met yearly, in person, a practice stopped with the pandemic. How about a virtual meeting? We have not made a dent on the Conservative government, or its health minister or NHS under him. What if there is a change in government at the next election? What connections do we have with Labour? And how can we develop them?

Nightingale Society-North America 

The group met again, by zoom, on 2 February, with a new member from Michigan, a practising nurse with a new PhD. Welcome! She joins members from Toronto, Ottawa, Dayton and Maryland .One vexatious item of business was the continued showing of a large picture of Mary Seacole, with false information on her, at two downtown Toronto hospitals, despite the undertaking given by the chief nurse to have them removed by the end of November.

The group is still looking to an in-person gathering, in Dayton, Ohio, this year, postponed on account of the pandemic.

Any people on the (regular) Nightingale Society list who lives in the U.S. or Canada who would like to join in these (occasional, smaller) meetings, please email:


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]