The Florence Nightingale Foundation goes Off-Course
The letter following, to the chair of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, protests the decision of its board to support the Mary Seacole awards, in effect recognizing her as a great contributor to nursing, not a claim that she ever made for herself. The Foundation was established with money donated to honour Nightingale! We did not receive a substantive reply to our earlier questions as to what exactly Mrs Seacole did for and in nursing.
Dear Professor Westwood
Thank you for your email with the link to your website. I note, however, that you have not provided any substantive answer to our questions. Herewith the letter again, as a number of people asked to have their names added to the signatures. Again, I undertake to circulate your reply.
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?
- What 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: de-hydration (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 … Signed by 33 members of the Nightingale Society
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