Posts filed under “Newsletters”

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 contact@nightingalesociety.com.

Newsletter 2022:03

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022 is International Nursing Day

Congratulations to all Nurses on May 12, our hero’s birthday! Herewith a Washington Post story for which I was interviewed. Please pass on information of events you know about for the next newsletter.

Florence Nightingale to revolutionize nursing

by Jess McHugh, Washington Post, May 8 2022

When Florence Nightingale arrived at the Scutari military hospital in Turkey in 1854, conditions there were almost as bad as on the battlefield. As Britain and its allies pushed back against Russian expansionism in the Crimean War—not far from recent fighting in today’s Russian invasion of Ukraine—the death rate for British soldiers soared, though many more were dying of preventable diseases than battle wounds.

The young English nurse saw soldiers festering in filth, many of them lying on the bare floor among the rats. Dirty bandages covered rotting wounds, and the neglected soldiers had to contend with lice, fleas and the stench of disease in the unventilated ward. There was about one bathtub per 150 soldiers, though that hardly helped: A dead horse had been left to rot in the water supply.

Nightingale and her team of 38 women immediately went to work on issues that others—including many of the doctors—saw as unimportant, such as sanitation and food quality. Instead of waiting for the 2,000-mile supply chain from England to deliver important goods, Nightingale went out into Constantinople—today’s Istanbul—and purchased soap, towels, clean linens and fresh food from local markets. She and her team quickly set to work disinfecting the hospital. Nightingale essentially became a hospital administrator, taking charge of procurement, hygiene and nutrition. Death rates declined, and Nightingale was hailed as an “angel.”

The “lady with the lamp”—as she was soon known for tending to patients at all hours of the night—would become the mother of modern nursing and one of the most admired women of her era. Yet even she was not exempt from the disregard and resistance toward nurses among the male professions of the military and medicine.

Her tendency to circumvent existing power structures irked more than one higher-up. “There is not an official who would not burn me like Joan of Arc if he could, but they know that the War Office cannot turn me out because the country is with me,” she wrote during the war. She would win over many detractors who soon witnessed her ability to get things done, whether it was securing fresh produce or obtaining basic supplies from Queen Victoria herself.

After observing the administrative failures at Scutari, Nightingale would dedicate her life to ensuring that what she witnessed during the war would not happen again, arguing that hygienic patient care was a necessity and not a luxury. She was a dedicated public reformer who spent much of her life advocating to make nursing a profession that would demand respect from both doctors and the public, and she would establish the first professional nursing school.

As we celebrate National Nurses Week, which began Friday and ends on the 202nd anniversary of Nightingale’s birth on Thursday (marked as International Nurses Day), many countries—including the United States—are facing a crisis in nursing. Much like Nightingale in the Crimean War, nurses are often forced to bear the brunt of structural failures over which they have little control. They are undervalued and overworked. The “Great Resignation” has hit the nursing field particularly hard, and nearly 200,000 nursing jobs are expected to go unfilled through 2030. A recent survey found that more than one-third of nurses plan to leave their jobs by the end of the year, and nearly half of them cited burnout as the reason.

The covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated existing problems, particularly in hospitals, where the brunt of care often falls to nurses who are asked to work long hours for pay they consider insufficient. In demanding safety and dignity in their working conditions, nurses today are carrying on the mission begun by Nightingale: seeking to ensure that they are treated as professionals—not sacrificed as martyrs.

After more than a year and a half in Constantinople—across the Black Sea from the fighting in Crimea—Nightingale returned to Britain, but her work continued. Schooled in math from a young age, she had a passion for statistics and wanted not only to understand what had led to so many deaths at Scutari but to present that information to the public in a way that was easy to grasp. The highly visual charts she would publish were revolutionary for their era. Instead of reciting dry scientific statistics, she used a color-coded rose diagram to illustrate how deaths from preventable infectious diseases far outnumbered battlefield casualties in Crimea.

Many now hail Nightingale as a pioneer in data visualization, and she became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society, but her interest was rooted not simply in an intellectual pursuit. She wanted to use data in her quest for health reform. In a way that is strikingly modern, Nightingale believed patient care to be a social and political issue, understanding that high mortality and low income are closely tied (a phenomenon that persists today: Poor Americans died of covid-19 at much higher rates than their wealthy counterparts). As Nightingale once wrote in a letter, “Whenever I am infuriated, I revenge myself with a new diagram.”

In 1860, she founded the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, which experts consider the first secular nursing school. (Nightingale had cobbled together her own education at several hospitals as a young woman.) “There was no training before,” said Lynn McDonald, a Nightingale scholar and professor emerita at the University of Guelph in Canada. “People who were called nurses before were just hospital employees who usually didn’t know very much and really did more of a cleaning job than anything else.”

Thanks to Nightingale, nurses undertook what we understand as patient care, something she had first outlined in her 1859 book “Notes on Nursing.” In it, she wrote: “I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices. It ought to signify the proper fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet, and the proper selection and administration of diet.”

Her school’s one-year program delivered the first formal training in modern nursing, teaching elementary science and medicine. Nursing had often been reserved for working-class women, but by elevating this work to a profession, Nightingale helped make it more acceptable for women from a range of backgrounds to become nurses.

Nightingale’s vision of nursing would soon migrate across the Atlantic to the United States, thanks in part to wide publication of her writings. The Union Army even consulted Nightingale on how to manage field hospitals during the Civil War. By 1873, little more than a decade after Nightingale opened her school in London, Bellevue Hospital in New York City had started one of the first U.S. nursing programs, basing its curriculum on Nightingale’s principles.

In the intervening century and a half, medical science has grown by leaps and bounds. (Germ theory was not yet popularized when Nightingale founded her school.) Nurses today go through several years of advanced education, and many nurse practitioners have responsibilities similar to those of doctors.

While training for nurses has vastly improved, the way they’re treated has not always reflected those changes. That’s why so many in 2022 are turning to other fields entirely. “Nurses nowadays are still underpaid and still don’t get the respect,” McDonald said. “Those problems remain. They’ve obviously diminished greatly since [Nightingale’s] time, but they’re still there.”

Newsletter 2022:02

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | March 1, 2022

New 90-minute feature film, in French:
“Florence Nightingale: la première des infirmières”
(Florence Nightingale, First of the Nurses)

A new film, by Aurine Crémieux, was broadcast in late February on the Arte channel, which I (and others in Canada and probably in the United States) cannot see. Thanks to Nightingale Society member Rob van der Peet, in the Netherlands, who did see it, for alerting us. An English version is in preparation.

The German version is “Florence Nightingale: Mutter aller Schwestern” (Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nurses). 

Filming was done in the U.K. and France in the summer and fall of 2021 (I did an interview for it in September, at the offices of the Royal Statistical Society).

Florence Nightingale Lecture at Oxford University, 4 March 2022

One of the great highlights of the Nightingale-and-things-statistical year is the public lecture held by the Department of Statistics at Oxford University and available by zoom. This year’s lecturer is Sir Bernard Silverman, FRS, professor emeritus of statistics at Oxford. His topic: “Statistics and the fight against modern slavery.” As is typical, the lecture is not on Nightingale, but in fact is on a subject—slavery—on which she was greatly concerned (her MP grandfather had worked with William Wilberforce on the abolition of slavery). The lecturer is evidently planning to do what she did so well: use statistics to elucidate a great problem and the best means to deal with it.

The lecture is at 3 p.m., U.K. time, followed by a panel session with experts on modern slavery. It is necessary to register. Florence Nightingale Lecture and Panel Session – Friday 4th March 2022 | Department of Statistics, University of Oxford

University of Virginia School of Nursing Online Event, 19 March 2022 

The 5th Agnes Dillon Randolph International Nursing History Conference, with keynote address by historian Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD: “Black Patients as Healers and the Double Bind in Medical Racism.” Registration is free and open to all.

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 avey.bhatia@gstt.nhs.uk

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: saycontact@nightingalesociety.com

 

Newsletter 2021:09

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | December 4, 2021

Success in Countering Creeping Seacolism in Toronto!

Congratulations to the Nightingale Society, North America, for persuading the top officials, notably the chief nurse, Joy Richards, to take down two large pictures in their lobbies, of the two (supposed) co-founders of nursing, one you-know-who and the other Mrs Seacole, with a fallacious list of her (supposed) nursing accomplishments. The pair of pictures appeared at three major, downtown Toronto hospitals. (Our spy, a patient, says they are not down yet, but we expect that to happen soon.)

Letters sometimes work! Especially if members send more than one.

Congratulations to… 

Paul Crawford, Anna Greenwood, Richard Bates, and Jonathan Memel, whose Florence Nightingale at Home,  2020, has been nominated for an award. People can vote for it at (some already have)  NOW: https://bit.ly/3nsRaga.

Nightingale Society, North America

The group (Toronto, Ohio and Maryland) met by Zoom on 30 November, chaired by Anne Clark and organized by Carolyn Edgar. Carolyn reports that the focus has shifted from “Celebrating Nightingale’s Bicentenary” to defending her and correcting any false statements. It was agreed that, when Nightingale has come under attack, we respond with letter writing saying where they got it wrong.

We would be happy to add new members (occasional zoom meetings now, we hope to meet again in person in 2021). If you are in Canada or the United States and would like to join, or try us! Email contact@nightingalesociety.com.

Boston Conference

Many people took part in the zoom symposium “Nightingale 2020” held (from) Boston University School of Public Health, 8 October. There were excellent presentations (especially Dave Green, my spies tell me). 

Unfortunately, speaker Mary Ellen Doona reiterated incorrect claims she had previously published on Nightingale and the Irish Sisters of Mercy. For a critique, with primary sources, see my (Lynn McDonald’s), “Florence Nightingale and Irish nursing” article for the Journal of Clinical Nursing, available online 5 April 2014.

As well, Doona failed to mention that Mother Bridgeman, superior of the Irish Sisters of Mercy, signed a contract on behalf of her nurses to work under Nightingale, a condition to their being accepted on the (second) nursing team sent out. On arrival (and Nightingale knew nothing of it and was not asked), the doctors objected for not only was the Barrack Hospital overcrowded, the large number of nuns upset the religious balance. They, not Nightingale, required that the new arrivals be sent elsewhere. They were, to Koulali, and then sent to the Crimea itself. When Nightingale was put in charge of the Crimea hospital nursing, Bridgeman took her nuns and quit, without advising her! (Nightingale had to scramble to find replacements.)

As to Doona’s accusation of Nightingale having “anti-Catholic” sentiments, she worked very amicably with the nuns of the same order at the Convent of Mercy, Bermondsey, and remained friends with its mother superior, Mary Clare Moore, and other nuns for life. 

Correspondence about Nightingale and the End of the Crimean War

Thanks to Peter Kay for sharing an interesting letter he has acquired and has displayed, from General George Codrington to his Russian counterpart, about the placing of a white cross at a cemetery.

“Vital Power,” Anyone?

Rob Van der Peet, a Dutch retired nurse working on a new translation of Notes on Nursing, invites discussion on Nightingale’s interest in “vital power.” You can email him at robvanderpeet@xs4all.nl.

Newsletter 2021:08

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | November 4, 2021

My visit to the UK, September-October 2021

It was not possible to hold a Nightingale Society meeting while I was in the U.K., but I did manage to see a number of people informally: 

  • Dave Green, director of the Nightingale Museum 
  • Alison Macfarlane, statistician (we went to the National Archives at Kew together, on an unsuccessful attempt to find some (missing) Crimean War data)
  • Dr Eileen Magnello, historian of statistics 
  • And see the item below: Romsey Abbey   

New letter to co-sign:

“This is a new opening for us—might a new CEO be more open than the previous? “
–Amanda Pritchard, CEO
National Health Service

Dear Ms Pritchard

First of all, congratulations to you on your appointment as CEO of the National Health Service and all the best in such a challenging post.

We in the Nightingale Society continue to be concerned about misinformation put out about Nightingale, yes, by the NHS. We understand and agree with the NHS’s goal of celebrating black and ethnic minority role models. But we see no point and some harm in the continued promotion of a Jamaican Creole businesswoman, Mary Seacole, commendable as she was as an adventurous traveller, memoirist and generous volunteer, but not remotely a founder of the nursing profession.

The pairing of the two, Nightingale and Seacole, even appeared in the Queen’s Christmas message of 2020. Was that her idea? Or did the NHS give her the words? (this was before your appointment as CEO).

It got worse with the statement of the Prince of Wales on International Nurses Day, 12 May 2021 (again, before your appointment), when he credited Seacole, along with Nightingale, with saving lives by sanitary reform during the Crimean War! Not even Nightingale deserves that credit, although she did assist, especially by installing laundries and purchasing new bedding and clothes for the vermin-infested soldiers who arrived at her hospital. Mrs Seacole was not even in the country when the clean-up occurred! Nor did she mention, in her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, the Sanitary Commission, which actually did the work that saved lives. Again, we wonder, did the Prince of Wales make this up himself, or was he given the words?

A letter to the prince asking at what hospitals Seacole ever nursed, what nurses she ever trained or mentored, and what books or articles she ever wrote on nursing received no reply.

Not the least ill consequence of getting this history wrong is that the NHS fails to recognize real, black and minority ethnic nursing leaders. We propose as the leading contender Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92), the first black nurse in the NHS in 1948, after being the first black nurse at the Nightingale School, then at St Thomas’ Hospital, in 1946. Mrs Pratt went on to become the first black matron of University College Hospital, Ibadan, the first black chief nurse of Nigeria (posts previously reserved for white, ex-patriate British women, when Nigerians were kept in the menial positions). Pratt went past Nightingale in her final appointment, in effect as Minister of Health for Lagos State (the title was “Commissioner for Health,” one of five Cabinet posts), 1975-77. Herewith a link on her, and a PDF biography is available on the Nightingale Society website: Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria — The Nightingale Society 

We urge you to get the history right: Nightingale was the major founder of professional nursing. Many people deserve credit for the pioneering roles they played in the process, short of founder status. Black and ethnic minority nurses should be celebrated for what they did (they don’t need false praise or fake facts!).

Sincerely,

Romsey Abbey: the Calling Window

John Shallcross kindly met me at the train and took me to see the Sophie Hacker’s wonderful “Calling Window” at the Abbey. It is stunning, and, no surprise, some visitors are going to the Abbey just to see it. Sophie gave a talk on it at the Abbey on 22 October, which I missed.

St Paul’s Cathedral evensong, 10 November 2021 in honour of Nightingale

At 5:00pm (no ticket required)

Conference on Nightingale at Boston University, 30 November 2021

Good to see some new names giving papers, along with well-known presenters, Dave Green and Barbara Dossey. (This event replaces the original.)

Newsletter 2021:07

By Lynn McDonald, co-founder | September 6, 2021

Possibly meet informally in London?

I will be in London September 15 for an unknown period of time–one event has been scheduled and I hope to work at the British Library. However, with the pandemic, life is uncertain. This is not the time to hold the usual in-person meetings we have had in the past, and Zoom can be better organized from my home office in Toronto. However, it would be great to meet anyone who is, or expects to be, in London after September 15. Please contact me at lynnmcd@uoguelph.ca if this might work.

More Propaganda: the Seacole pairing with Nightingale now a story in Toronto

In the last newsletter, a letter was reported sent to Princess Margret Hospital officials (no reply received) on the display of a Seacole picture in the lobby, with one of Nightingale (this reported by a nurse). The pairing has gone on, to the University Health Network (UHN), a major combination of downtown hospitals (this report by a patient). An online blurb sets out misinformation, more inaccurate than usual. It describes Seacole as “a British-Jamaican nurse and businessperson during the 1800s, provided sustenance and care for British soldiers at the battlefront during the Crimean War. A nursing pioneer, she opened a hospital hotel caring for those most in need. This was around the same time as Florence Nightingale, but Mary is seldom mentioned.”

Further, according to Dr Joy Richards, vice-president, patient relations, “Nursing would not be what it is today without these leaders and it’s important to open these conversations.” How about some facts in the conversations? And how does misinformation “empower” women into leadership? another purpose announced by UHN.

For the record, Mrs Seacole opened her restaurant/bar/catering service for officers in late spring, 1855—it was never a hospital and she never said it was. Nightingale arrived in November 1854, and got the nursing going and many improvements made (laundry, bedding, clean clothes) at the largest hospital in the world, the Scutari Barrack Hospital.

Question: To those of you who think that the United States and Canada are immune to these stories, take note. The next pairing of Seacole with Nightingale may come to a hospital near you.

On a lighter note

Thanks to Dr Ruth Richardson for sharing a podcast on the discovery of chloroform, which includes a short, but very positive, account of Nightingale’s work in the Crimean War.

Ropar Institute of Technology, India

Thanks to Doreen Armbruster, typesetter for the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, for donating her collection of 16 volumes to this new university. They write that they are delighted to have them on the shelf at their library.

Meeting of the North American Florence Nightingale Society

The meeting took place on 1 September by zoom. The main action from the meeting was to pursue the authorities at the Toronto downtown hospitals on the Mary Seacole propaganda picture.

Anyone in the United States or Canada who would like to link up with this network, let us know: contact@nightingalesociety.com

Newsletter 2021:06

From Lynn McDonald, project director | June 30, 2021

Nightingale and the Findings on Residential School Deaths in Canada

Everyone in Canada will be terribly aware of the tragic findings of large numbers of unmarked graves at old residential schools. Yet we should not be surprised at these sad findings. Nightingale was the first person to reveal the high rates of disease and death among aboriginal children in “colonial schools and hospitals,” in Ceylon, South Africa and Australia as well as Canada. These residential schools were British colonial policy.

Nightingale got the Colonial Office to send out questionnaires—the then colonial secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, had been the senior war minister during the Crimean War. She published the findings in 1863, that the rates of disease and death were, throughout the colonies that provided data, double those of English children of the same ages. The 13 schools in Canada were all in Ontario (some were day schools). So, we must expect deaths, even without deliberate crimes, simply from poor sanitary standards, especially over-crowding, and poor ventilation.

Nightingale’s paper on the subject, given at meetings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science got good press attention, but she could not get the Colonial Office to follow up—her contact, the Duke of Newcastle, had been switched to another department.

Congratulations to Professor Nigel Biggar, CBE

Nigel, a long-standing member of the Nightingale Society, in on the Queen’s Honour List for a CBE. Nigel tells me there is a backlog, on account of COVID-19, for giving out the awards, but they will be done in person, at a palace!

Florence Nightingale and Italy

Congratulations to Sylvestro Giananntonio on the publication of a new book, Florence Nightingale and Italy, in Italian. This was commissioned last year by the Italian nurses’ union.

Florence Nightingale: A Design Hero

R.J. Andrews’s latest on Nightingale as a data visualization pioneer.
Florence Nightingale is a Design Hero | by RJ Andrews | Nightingale | Medium

Mary Seacole propaganda in Toronto, at Princess Margaret Hospital

We were alerted to a new addition to the propaganda campaign, a large picture of Mary Seacole with one of Nightingale in the main lobby of this hospital, the specialist hospital for cancer. Three Toronto members of the Nightingale Society wrote the CEO, copied to the president and vice-president of the Ontario Hospital Association. Herewith:

Michael Burns, president and CEO
Princess Margaret Hospital
30 May 2021

Dear Mr Burns

Re: Mary Seacole picture/propaganda

It has been brought to our attention (we were sent a picture of the pictures) that the main lobby of Princess Margaret Hospital has pictures of Florence Nightingale, the major founder of nursing in the world ,of particular importance for the founding of professional nursing in Canada ,and one of Mary Seacole, a noted celebrity in the Crimean War, as the proprietress of a restaurant/bar/catering service for officers. Mrs Seacole has been actively promoted by the U.K.’s National Health Service as a role model for black and minority ethnic nurses—the NHS is the largest employer of blacks in the U.K. However, there is no foundation for her portrayal as a nurse, and she never claimed to be one. She published a very readable memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857. If you read it, you will find much to admire, but nothing on the nursing profession.

Kindly state, if you think otherwise, (1) in what hospitals did Seacole ever nurse (2) what nurses she ever trained or mentored and (3) what books and articles she authored on nursing or health care. The list for Nightingale on all three would be substantial, but Mrs Seacole sold meals and champagne to officers; she generously visited the hospital near her business, where she distributed donated magazines to sick railway workers. No doubt she gave comfort to many, as did the mince pies she gave them on January 1 1856, but this is not professional nursing. For more on Seacole, see introduction at https://maryseacole.info.

Sadly, fake facts get around. We trust you will not excuse the picture on the grounds that the hospital would not misinform the public on clinical matters, but false history is acceptable, if for a worthy goal. The promotion of role models for black and ethnic minority nurses and health care workers is a good idea, but choices must be made with due diligence as to the facts. The hospital should not be a purveyor of propaganda, and thus you should immediately remove the inappropriate picture.

If you want to recognize a black/ethnic minority nursing leader, an excellent choice would be Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse in the U.K.’s National Health Service, who went on to become the major founder of nursing in Nigeria and did much to promote professional nursing internationally. On her see: Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria, 2021: The Nightingale Society.

London open again

We are pleased to see that the Florence Nightingale Museum has re-opened. Also, Nightingale walking tours of London are back on.

Zoom event “Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War Revisited”

Richard Bates invites anyone to join in an event, co-sponsored with the British Library, Monday July 5 2021, 5:30-7 p.m. (UK time), with excellent speakers! Register with Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/florence-nightingale-and-the-crimean-war-revisited-tickets-158132722229

Did you know?

That there is a Nanjing Nightingale College of Nursing? The Nightingale Fellowship (the organization of former “Nightingale nurses”) presented the college with a Nightingale badge for display in a central meeting place. Good to hear!

Nightingale Fellowship Chapel Service

Herewith a link to the chapel service for Nightingale, as a virtual event: https://www.thenightingalefellowship.org.uk.

Newsletter 2021:05

From Lynn McDonald, project director | May 15, 2021

Nightingale’s Birthday, but with more setbacks, from on high (see good news later)

The letter below to the Prince of Wales is self-explanatory. Thanks to Ian Whitehouse and Mark Bostridge for alerting me to the stories in the newspapers. Please reply ‘Co-sign’ if you wish to add your name to the list.

HRH the Prince of Wales
Highgrove House, Doughton, Tetbury GL8 8TN
12 May 2021

Your Royal Highness

You were so right about climate change when so few saw the crisis, but you wrong, very wrong, in your statement in The Times making Mary Seacole a joint expert on hygiene with Florence Nightingale, so that together they saved lives in the Crimean War. No! Nor did Mrs Seacole, a fine person, successful businesswoman, generous volunteer and fine memoirist, ever claim anything of the kind. Her book, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, recounts her travels and her businesses, with several chapters (XIII to XVI) on the food and wine she served to officers during the war. In it, she even admitted to making “lamentable blunders” in her “herbal” preparations, presumably referring to her adding lead and mercury, both toxic metals, to them (Chapter IV). These act to dehydrate a person with bowel disease, when re-hydration is what is needed.

Whether you wrote the errors or they were given to you to say, they consist in “fake facts” and we wish you to know that. Sadly, HM the Queen demoted Nightingale and promoted Seacole in her Christmas message, 2020, making Nightingale a “nursing pioneer” like Seacole.

That you made these wrongful remarks at St Bartholomew’s Hospital only adds to the wrong. It was Florence Nightingale who sent the first trained matron and staff of nurses to that hospital to get professional nursing started (it was much behind St Thomas’ Hospital, where her school was located).

Nurses certainly deserve celebration for their hard and courageous work during this pandemic. But the pandemic itself reminds us of the ongoing relevance of Nightingale’s contribution. It was her pioneer statistical work, done with experts after the Crimean War that identified what reforms worked to bring down the high death rates. That is exactly what we need to know now to identify what works best in treatments for COVID-19 and what measures of prevention lead to lower rights of infection and death.

It was Nightingale who was the great advocate of hygiene (name one sentence Seacole ever wrote on the subject!). Ventilation, cleanliness, sunlight, fresh air, adequate spacing and frequent handwashing all feature in her work from her Notes on Nursing in 1860 on.

Diversity and inclusion are proper objects for the National Health Service and for you to assist by promoting them. But the NHS seems to have missed a superb black nursing leader who would be an ideal black/minority role model, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92), who went on from being the first black nurse in the NHS in 1948, to lead in establishing professional nursing in her home country, Nigeria on her return there. She trained at the Nightingale School for she was inspired by her. She in turn became the first black matron at University College Hospital, Ibadan (replacing a white British expatriate) and then on to being chief nursing officer for Nigeria, the largest country in Africa and sixth largest in the world. She then went on to another “first,” the first nurse to become a Cabinet minister in charge of health, in Lagos State, 1973-75. On that accomplishment, she passed Nightingale, who wrote and lobbied Cabinet ministers but never became one.

On Mrs Pratt, see Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria — The Nightingale Society.

Yours sincerely,

Copies to the Rt Hon Boris Johnson, prime minister; the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health; Sir Simon Stevens, CEO, the National Health Service.

Good News: Florence Nightingale Museum in London to re-open in June

And congratulations to David Green, director, on being short-listed for recognition for a Museum and Heritage award.

Westminster Abbey service on Nightingale re-scheduled for November 10

[Advance notice]

“Florence Nightingale Comes Home”

Richard Bates reports that their “Florence Nightingale Comes Home” exhibition is finally reopening at Lakeside Arts next week! Good to see this, a postponed event. Tickets can be booked: here. To begin with it will be open Thursday-Sunday, and advance booking is required.

Zoom meeting of the North American Nightingale Society

Yes, we have a branch that has met in person, in Toronto, and now meets by Zoom, with members in Toronto; Ottawa; San Francisco; Dayton, Ohio; and Maryland. It met on May 11 to make plans for ongoing recognition of Nightingale. It is exploring ways to get an annual Florence Nightingale Lecture, based in North America, established.

Newsletter 2021:04

From Lynn McDonald, project director | May 9, 2021

Florence Nightingale Foundation and its “Partnership” promoting Mary Seacole

[for background, see the following link for The Nightingale Newsletter 2021:03, April 21, 2021]

Our letter went a second time to the Foundation, with more signatures, up from 31 to 42.

We have received no substantive reply to our letter, but only an email from Greta Westwood, the CEO, giving a link to the ”partnership.” Thus, no answer to what nursing Seacole ever did, and what “partnership” Nightingale and Seacole had, apart from (as we pointed out) that Nightingale gave Mrs Seacole a bed for the night when she was en route to the Crimea in 1855. Herewith:

“Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) is delighted to be partnering with the Mary Seacole Trust to deliver the hugely successful Mary Seacole Awards. Both organisations celebrate the diversity of the nursing and midwifery workforce and the communities in which they work. This partnership will further highlight the contribution of nurses and midwives from diverse backgrounds working in the NHS in England.

“COVID-19 has emphasised the continued and now urgent need to support ethnic minority communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. By joining forces, FNF and the Mary Seacole Trust will support nurse and midwife leaders to develop projects to reduce inequalities and improve health services and outcomes for such communities.

“This new partnership will celebrate the achievements of nurses and midwives who follow in the footsteps of both Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.”

Responses: Some people have emailed Greta Westwood themselves, to get a polite reply, but again no real answer on the erroneous content.

A subsequent email from Dr Westwood badly missed the point:

“As you will know the Florence Nightingale Foundation is a UK wide nursing and midwifery charity providing leadership development opportunities for over 400 nurses and midwives per year. It is not a historical society.” (email 4 May 2021).

How “not being a historical society” entitles it to invent fake facts was not explained.

Back to Nightingale: A Crimean War soldier writes her in 1887

Sometimes a letter to Nightingale tells us something about her work not in any letter of her own. Here is a fine example from 1887, written by a Crimean War soldier about her help of over 30 years earlier. British Army surgeons then did little more than amputate injured limbs; more complicated surgery to reconstruct the limb was still a long way off. The soldier was Samuel Atkins. Since he was wounded at the Battle of Inkermann, 5 November 1854, he would have been one of the first soldiers Nightingale looked after at the Scutari Barrack Hospital. His letter goes on to his religious beliefs.

Source: Woodward Biomedical Library B.64, University of British Columbia

Birmingham
9 March 1887

Madame

You will doubtless be surprised at receiving a letter from an old Crimean soldier after so many years have passed away, but I have always been anxious to write to you, but could not obtain your address, and have only now quite incidentally, in talking to a friend, discovered through her the address of your sister to whom I have addressed this letter for you.

I was one of the soldiers in the 33rd Duke of Wellington Regiment and was wounded at the Battle of Inkerman, in the head, muscle of right arm and down the ribs, and taken to the hospital at Scutari. After being under the doctors treatment for a time, he said that the next day he must cut my arm off, and I told you what the doctor had said and you told me that I had not better have it off as there was no danger and that they could not take it off without my permission and that my arm would look better in my sleeve. There the sleeve would tuck in my waistcoat pocket.

A few months after coming home to my native village, when out one day my arm being still crooked I stooped down, picked up a stone to throw at a bird and the sudden jerk pulled my arm straight and I was shortly after this able to take some temporary employment and have been able to follow my work ever since.

And now you will perhaps ask yourself why I have written all these particulars to you. It is that I may thank you from the very bottom of my heart for all your kindness to me and all other suffering ones while I and they were in the hospital. I often remember you in my prayers at the throne of grace for thank God since leaving the Crimea I have found grace in trusting in the precious blood of Christ.

I trust that you are in the enjoyment of good health and that the presence of the Master Christ may be always with you. And I know that you will one day hear him say (Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my children, ye have done it unto me) Well done good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Hoping that you will excuse the liberty I have taken. I remain, Madame

your obedient servant,

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt: From the First Black Nurse in the NHS to Major Founder of Nursing in Nigeria

by Lynn McDonald, April 2021

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt (1915-92) was an outstanding nursing leader, well recognized for her work in her home country, Nigeria, but scarcely known in the United Kingdom, despite her significant British connections and international reputation. She was the first Black person to train at the Nightingale School, then based at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, starting in 1946. Then, when the National Health Service was launched in July, 1948, she was on duty—the first Black nurse in the NHS.

Her background and education

Née Kofoworola Abeni Scott, she was born into a privileged Lagos family, early converts to Christianity. She was given a good education in a Church Missionary Society girls’ school, after which she obtained a teaching certificate and taught History at the secondary level for five years. She wanted to become a nurse, but, like Nightingale, was prevented by her family, on account of the unseemly reputation of nurses. In the case of Nigeria, the higher posts were reserved for British expatriate women, with the menial tasks accorded to Nigerians (the practice of the Colonial Nursing Service).

In 1941, the then Miss Scott married a Nigerian pharmacist, Eugene Samuel Oluremi (Olu) Pratt, who shared her faith and strongly supported her aspiration to become a nurse. The couple were married in the Scotts’ and Pratts’ family church, the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, where Mrs Pratt was active in cathedral governance and women’s organizations.

Olu Pratt made the introduction for his wife to the matron at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1946—he had gone to London ahead of her to apply for medical studies for himself. The matron accepted her, subject to the arrival of the required documents, which proved to be in order.

St Thomas’ had been bombed in the war, so that, on Mrs Pratt’s arrival in 1946, its departments were in temporary quarters in other parts of London. She, as well as doing the regular training, getting excellent marks, went on to obtain extra certificates in midwifery (and worked as a midwife), tropical diseases, the ward sister’s course, and, on a return trip, hospital nursing administration, these last two at the Royal College of Nursing. Pratt later won grants to enable her to travel to see nurse training in other countries. In the United States, she was impressed by training based at universities. She would later lead in the introduction of university-based training in Nigeria, achieved in 1965.

Professional nursing in Nigeria

Encouraged by British “Nightingale nurses,” Pratt returned to Nigeria in 1955 to become the first Nigerian ward sister, then, successively, the first Nigerian assistant matron, deputy matron, and, in 1964, matron, at the top hospital in Nigeria, University College Hospital, Ibadan. This transition from expatriate nurses, doctors, other professionals and administrators to Nigerians was called “Nigerianization”. It began with the approach of independence, which was gained in 1960.

After a mere two years as matron at UCH, Ibadan, although enough to demonstrate her ability as an administrator. Pratt took on a greater challenge, as chief nursing officer for the Federation of Nigeria, the first Nigerian in the post. Her domain became the whole country, the largest in Africa, sixth largest in the world. She led in the establishment of other nursing schools and did some of the training herself.

Throughout, Pratt was, unusually for the time, both a wife and mother, with two sons, one born in Nigeria and one while she was training in London. Her husband obtained British medical qualifications, to return to practise in Nigeria.

From nursing to political leadership in health care

Pratt, like Nightingale, saw the importance of political action in the achievement of healthcare reform. Thus, in 1973, when she was offered the post of “Commissioner for Health”—in practice, the Minister of Health for Lagos State, then under military rule—she accepted. During her time in office (only two years) she saw to the expansion of healthcare services, the building of more hospitals, and the equipping of boats to take healthcare services to villages best accessible by water. She made the provision of better conditions for nurses a priority, culminating in the building of a fine nurses’ residence, long delayed by previous governments, dubbed the “Nurses’ Hilton.” Pratt was the first nurse to become Minister of Health for her country or state.

She received many honours, was named “chief,” awarded the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an honorary doctorate of laws and the Florence Nightingale Medal,; she was appointed a fellow both of the Royal College of Nursing and the West African College of Nursing. She died in Lagos in 1992, predeceased by her husband, Dr Olu Pratt, in 1985.

A biography of Pratt

An excellent biography was published about her, An African ‘Florence Nightingale’: a biography of Chief (Dr) Mrs Kofoworola Abeni Pratt. The author, Justus A. Akinsanya, was a distinguished Nigerian-born nursing academic, whose career was mainly in the U.K. Unluckily, the book soon became an “orphan book,” that is, the publisher went out of business and the author died. A PDF link is available on the website of the Nightingale Society. It is otherwise effectively unavailable.

Mrs K.A. Pratt: Role model

Mrs Pratt’s career makes her a fine role model not only for Black and minority ethnic nurses, but ALL nurses who aim high.