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

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:

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: