Newsletter 2021:03

From Lynn McDonald, project director | April 21, 2021

Letter to the Florence Nightingale Foundation

The letter went with 31 signatures on it. No response has come back as of yet. Five more people have since asked to co-sign the letter, so a second letter will duly go with more signatures. Anyone who did not sign and now wants to, please reply with Yes or Co-sign (if in doubt as to having signed before; no worries, I will add your name only if you did not!)

Of course, the NHS, notably NHS Employers and Public Health England are promoters of the Seacole award. The Nightingale Society has contacted them a number of times in the past, to get either no response or a feeble excuse. A telling example from NHS Employers to co-founder Wendy Mathews offered that: “the resumes of many historical figures may not stand up to the rigours of 21st century thinking or practice; however, that does not prevent these stories from being an inspiration to others.” And these people themselves add to false facts!

A letter to NHS groups will be the next step. Does anyone have contacts with sympathetic MPs or, better still, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health?

Other letters/emails to the Florence Nightingale Foundation

A number of people said they had some contact with members of the board and will contact them individually to seek some resolution. We want a resolution, to move forward, so anyone with ideas on how to do this, please try and let us know.

Herewith the letter (with 31 signatures):

Dear Professor Westwood

Re: Florence Nightingale Foundation announcement on promoting Mary Seacole awards (Mary Seacole Awards to be taken over by new partnership to ‘broaden impact’ | Nursing Times)

Nightingale Society members and supporters were, at the least, puzzled to see your promotion of Mary Seacole as an apparently equal contributor to “modern nursing.” Would you please tell us what contributions to modern nursing Mrs Seacole made? We are well aware of her fine personal qualities, as a businesswoman, volunteer and generous person. She kindly distributed donated magazines to the men at the Land Transport Corps Hospital near her business, and brought them mince pies on New Year’s Day, 1856. She gave out hot tea for several weeks (while waiting for her huts to be erected) to sick and wounded soldiers waiting on the pier at Balaclava to go to Nightingale’s hospital at Scutari.

  • However, can you tell us of any hospital(s) where she nursed? in any country?
  • Which nurses she trained or mentored?
  • What articles or books she ever published on nursing?

In her very readable memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857, she mentioned nothing of the sort, that is, of actual nursing. She described attending to men on the battlefield post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators, on three occasions. She also made it clear in her memoir that she missed the first battles, as she was in London attending to her failing gold investments (Chapter VIII, p 74).

Please state, further, what contribution to “modern nursing” Mrs Seacole made by her treatment of bowel patients: dehydration (vomiting, purging through the bowels and sweating) to become NHS “modern nursing” practice?

How did her “lamentable blunders” (Chapter V, 31 of her memoir) contribute to “modern nursing”?

You stated in the Nursing Times article that the “partnership” with the Seacole Trust would unite Nightingale and Seacole again, after their encounter 166 years ago. Please say how, given that the encounter consisted of Seacole asking Nightingale for a bed for the night as she was en route to the Crimea to start her business. Perhaps five minutes? with nothing on nursing (see her memoir, Chapter IX, p 91).

We appreciate the concern to bring due recognition to BAME persons in nursing, a valid goal, but should you not choose persons who made important contributions? We wonder why Kofoworola Abeni Pratt is not recognized, a Nightingale nurse, the first black nurse in the NHS and an outstanding nursing leader. No doubt there are other good BAME models as well, so why feature someone who was not?

We will be happy to post your statement on Mrs Seacole’s contributions to modern nursing.

Yours sincerely

Where to send your own emails:

Professor Greta Westwood, CBE, CEO or
Baroness Watkins, president
Lord Remnant, vice-president
Avery Bhatia, chief nurse, St Thomas’ and Guy’s NHS Foundation Trust
Andrew Andrews, legal director
David Half, treasurer
Royal patron, Princess Alexandra
Sir Robert Francis, patron
Trustees: Joan Myers, Jill McLeod Park, Colonel Sharon Findlay, Aisha Holoway, Peter Kay, Rhiannon Beaumont-Wood, Simon Reiter, Ben Edwards, Judy O’Sullivan.

Link to superb Pushkin Industries podcast by Tim Harford, “Florence Nightingale and her Geeks Wage War on Death”

Available also at NPR:

Notice of 2021 (Delayed) Bicentenary conference on Nightingale

The International & IV National Nursing History Conference will take place in İzmir from November 18th to 20th, 2021. The Conference will be held in memory of the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, who laid the foundations of modern nursing as the World Health Organization declared 2020 as the ‘Year of Nursing and Midwifery’ .We want to hold our congress this year with the same theme, which we could not hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main theme of our conference was determined as ‘Technology Keeps Live, Care Improves’. In line with this main theme, we invite all academicians, nurses and students to share the life and personal characteristics of Florence Nightingale, its contributions to the nursing profession, its philosophy, and the history of nursing care in our conference.