To Mosby/Elsevier Publishing

September 6, 2016


We write with concern over errors in three books of yours so extreme that they amount to historical falsification. They concern the portrayal of Jamaican businesswoman Mary Seacole as a pioneer nurse and war heroine, in effect the equal of Florence Nightingale, who was, in fact, the major founder of the modern nursing profession and an important contributor to statistics, public health and hospital reform. Mosby is a major, and highly respected, publisher of works in nursing and healthcare, which makes errors of this sort even more regrettable.

The most egregious errors are in a chapter in Cherry and Jacob’s Contemporary Nursing: Issues, Trends and management, 6th edition 2013 and a 7th planned for 2017, and Kindle, Amelia Broussard and Elaine E. Ridgeway’s “The Evolution of Professional Nursing,” 1-11 and Jacob’s “The Evolution of Professional Nursing.” The book also gives too much credit to Nightingale in some places (details available, if desired).

Unit 1 p3: “Important Events in the Evolution of Nursing. 1854: During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale transforms the image of nursing. Mary Seacole nursed with Nightingale in the war.” Nightingale changed more than the “image of nursing.” Seacole is the only other person listed, as if she were the second most important nurse in the world, although she did not nurse with Nightingale, or with anyone else during that war. Name one! Rather, she ran a business, selling food, wine and catering for officers (described in 3 chapters in her book).

An ill-informed source is cited, Carnegie, who seems never to have seen Seacole’s own book on her life. Carnegie was an eminent American nursing leader, but not a historian.

P 11: Mary Seacole, “Mary Seacole, a black nurse from Jamaica, British West Indies, also played a major role in the Crimean War. After being denied the opportunity to join Nightingale’s nursing brigade, Seacole built and opened a lodging house with her own money. Seacole had extensive knowledge and experience in tropical medicine and believed she could make a contribution to the control and cure of the cholera epidemic. She arranged the rooms on the upper floor of her house into a hospital ward where she kept medicines that she formulated from herbs and natural plants (Carnegie, 1991).

At the end of each day, after caring for sick and wounded soldiers, Seacole then would walk to the Barracks Hospital and volunteer her nursing services to Nightingale. The two nurses worked side by side, each with a lamp in hand, giving care and saving lives. Seacole was honoured by the Jamaican government and the British Commonwealth for saving the lives of countless soldiers wounded in the Crimean War and the lives of thousands of others with cholera, yellow fever, malaria and diarrhea (Carnegie, 1991).”

The section is entirely wrong. Professor McDonald sent an email to Dr Cherry 11 August 2016 outlining the errors (see below). She responded with concern about accuracy, but so far, without either acknowledging the errors or answering with adequate sources. The section is so bad as to require retraction, with an explanation in the preface that it was based on faulty sources.

2. Current Issues in Nursing edited by Perle Slavik Cowen and Sue Moorhead, in numerous editions (2006 to 2014) and Kindle. The late Dr Cowen was and Dr Moorhead is a respected academic, but they are wrong.

Seacole, a Jamaican businesswoman, did not travel from Jamaica to England to volunteer as a nurse, but was in England to see to her unsuccessful gold-mining stocks (she had been running a business in Panama). She did not have letters of support from British army doctors, nor ever claimed to have (in her book, she cited one from a gold-mining company doctor (WA, 77). She did not practise with any doctors, also clear in her book. Name one!

Florence Nightingale did not turn her down twice to be a nurse. Seacole described one, brief, friendly, meeting between them (p. 91) when she was en route to the Crimea to start her business. She was turned down in her casual applications to various offices in London, but then she never submitted the required written application, with references, and she had had no hospital experience.

Nightingale had already left for the war when Seacole started to look for a post. The second team had likely already left, too. Seacole frankly describes being occupied, for two months at least, with her gold stocks (p. 74).

Mrs Seacole did not open a restaurant and clinic for soldiers. Her restaurant was for officers only. There was no second floor “health care clinic.” Huts don’t have second floors. She made it clear that no one stayed over night, and the business closed Sundays.

For her medicines she admitted adding lead acetate and calomel (mercury chloride) to her cholera “remedy” (p. 31), deleterious substances.

Seacole could not have worked every night at Nightingale’s hospital, which was 300 miles away across the Black Sea. Her own account is rather tame. Her store by evening was filled with “customers wanting stores, dinners and luncheons, loungers and idlers making conversation and amusement.” At 8 o’clock she closed it, “and I could sit down and eat at leisure … Anyone who came after that time came simply as a friend” (p. 145).

Nightingale neither turned her down as a nurse, nor worked with her as a nurse; Mrs Seacole did first aid work on the side, post-battle, on precisely three occasions. Her main function, which was greatly appreciated, was as the proprietress of a restaurant/bar/store/takeaway/catering service for officers.

See Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth, 2014, for better sources, and for other problems in the Seacole literature, see

3. There is a lesser erroneous section in Lillian DeYoung, Dynamics of Nursing.

14: “Over the years little or nothing was known about nurses other than Miss Nightingale who served in the Crimean War. Jamaica’s national heroine in that war was Mary Seacole, who died in London in 1881.” This is to accept as fact that Seacole served as a nurse in that war, when, by her own account, she ran a business for officers, selling wine, foods, and catering dinner parties.

“With her own funds went to the Crimea to serve. Florence Nightingale kept her waiting 40 minutes, so Mary Seacole went about visiting the sick and wounded. Miss Nightingale rebuked her as one who was “interfering.” Any source for this? Nightingale was busy running the nursing of the hospital and getting in needed supplies.

According to Seacole’s own book, she asked to meet with Nightingale after visiting men she knew in Jamaica (WA, 88). She recorded an amicable meeting with Nightingale, far from a rebuke: “What do you want, Mrs Seacole–anything that we can do for you? If it lies in my power, I shall be very happy” (WA, 91). What is the source for “interfering”?

“A historian of the war wrote in 1902” (which of the two authors and illustrator was the historian?) “Even in an enlightened century Mother Seacole stands out preeminent and cannot be passed over.”

The passage goes on to state: “She had the secret of a recipe for cholera and dysentery, and liberally dispensed the specific.” However, the ingredients she gave in her book, show her adding lead and mercury to the “remedy,” already heavy on emetics, purging and blistering, or dehydrating bowel patients. Exactly the wrong thing to do: oral rehydration therapy keeps the death rate low. Seacole herself acknowledged “lamentable blunders” (WA, 31).

Seacole was careful in describing her suspicions about racial discrimination playing a role in her being “rejected,” since she was well aware that she had missed the boat: Nightingale and her team had left in October 1854 and she only began her (informal) applications after November 30. “Deprived of services”? But she never submitted an application. The business plan she formed was not for “the sick” in general, or soldiers, but “to establish a mess table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers” (WA, 81).


[14 members of the Nightingale Society]