Mary Seacole: Did You Know?
A Resource for History Teachers on Mary Seacole
- That she led an adventurous life, and left a lively memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands?
- That she ran a restaurant/store for men in Panama going overland to the California Gold Rush? (before the Panama Canal)
- That she prospected for gold in Panama and bought gold-mining stocks from the proceeds?
- That she called herself a “doctress,” like her mother, an “admirable doctress,” rather than a nurse?
- That she diagnosed, prescribed and treated people without being medically qualified? (she picked up tips from doctors informally)
- That, as well as using herbals, she used toxic substances like acetate of lead and mercury chloride, in her “remedies?” (WA 31)
- That she admitted to “lamentable blunders’ in those remedies?
- That she claimed not one cure for yellow fever (in the Jamaica epidemic of 1853) and very few in cholera? (59-63)
- That her cholera “remedies,” like those of trained doctors, were counter-productive—they produced dehydration, when rehydration is needed?
During the Crimean War
- That Mrs Seacole’s purpose in going to London in September 1854 was to attend to her unprofitable gold stocks? (74)
- That she gave up on her gold stocks, and decided to try to become an army nurse only when Nightingale and her team had already left and the second group had left or was about to go?
- That, instead of submitting the required written application, with references, Mrs Seacole called informally at government offices to ask to be hired? (76-80)
- That she did not have the required hospital experience, nor applied to the office which provided it?
- That when she could not go to the Crimea as a nurse, Seacole decided to go for business purposes, with a relative of her late husband as her business partner?
- That she missed the first three, major, battles of the Crimean War? (the Alma, 20 September; Balaclava, 25 October; and Inkermann, 5 November 1854)? (because she was busy with her gold-mining stocks in London)
- That Seacole and Nightingale (according to Seacole met for about 5 minutes at the Scutari Barrack Hospital (89-91)? They did not discuss nursing, nor did Seacole ask for a job?
- That, on arrival in the Crimea, Seacole and her partner ran a restaurant/bar/store/takeaway/catering service for officers in the Crimea? It was called the “British Hotel,” but was not a hotel (no overnight stays)
- That Seacole sold food and drinks to spectators at three battles of the war, when she went onto the battlefield post- battle to help with first aid and give out food and drinks? (18 June, 16 August and 8 September 1855)
- That, on the battlefield, Mrs Seacole also cut off souvenir buttons from the coats of dead Russian soldiers (167, 174)?
- That she accepted stolen things from Russian churches to take back with her to London (176)?
After the Crimean War, back in London
- That Mrs Seacole wore Crimean War medals after the war, although she did not win any? (it was not then illegal to wear other people’s medals—it is now)
- Mrs Seacole published her book in 1857, which became a best seller, was re-printed and got favourable reviews?
- That when Mrs Seacole was declared bankrupt, officer friends raised money for her to support her in her old age?
- That she returned to Jamaica for some years after the Crimea, but came back to London for her last years?
- That Mrs Seacole converted to Roman Catholicism late in life, and was buried in a Roman Catholic graveyard in London?
- That Mrs Seacole was awarded the Order of Merit of Jamaica after her death, and named the top Black Briton?
For further information see www.maryseacole.info/