H.M. the Queen
London SW1A 1AA
September 10, 2012
We write with concern about the projected placement of a statue to honour Mary Seacole as the “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ Hospital. Press reports state that your office will ask Princess Alexandra to unveil this statue, or you might be asked to unveil it yourself–as you opened a Seacole Building at Brunel University in 2006.
We wish to make clear that we do not oppose honouring Seacole for her own life and work, but rather the appropriating to her of the work of Florence Nightingale, who was not only Britain’s “pioneer nurse” but the major founder of nursing throughout the world, work based at St Thomas’ Hospital. The hospital’s design itself was influenced by Nightingale, and can be seen in the three pavilions that were not destroyed in World War II. The hospital originally built on the site was of the then innovative, safe “pavilion” design, and architects came from America and Europe to see it.
The fact that St Thomas’ faces Parliament only adds to the offence, for Seacole had nothing to do with political change for health care, while Nightingale throughout her life wrote briefs for Parliament and lobbied Cabinet members and MPs on needed reforms.
The board of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust made its decision in favour of a statue on the basis of massive misinformation provided to it by the Seacole Memorial Appeal Campaign, misinformation which it then further circulated. For further information see www.maryseacole.info. Part of our concern is the possibility of significant embarrassment to your office in the light of how this misinformation is now being unraveled and revealed, as not only being inaccurate but, in too many instances, deliberately misleading.
We understand the desire of many people to celebrate a black heroine, but we do not believe that the work and reputation of another person, especially one so closely associated with your ancestor Queen Victoria, should be denigrated in the process, or that false “information” should be used to justify the claims made for the honoree.
For information on Seacole see: www.maryseacole.info;
for Nightingale: www.sociology.uoguelph.ca/fnightingale/.
A reply by your staff would be appreciated: to