Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women. There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them. Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include? I welcome your suggestions. After my first post last week, I received several suggestions all of which I will include in the future. These are Eleanor of Aquitaine (July – Married King Louis), Eleanor Roosevelt (October), Laura Bush (November), and Marian Anderson (TBD). Would you like to write a guest blog about one of the world’s outstanding women? Let me hear from you.
To read previous posts in this segment, there is a menu at the top of my site. For this weeks post, meet Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1920 in Italy. Her parents were William Edward Nightingale and Frances “Fanny” Nightingale. The Nightingale’s were a rich, well-connected British family. Florence had one sister, Frances (Frances Parthenope Verney).
Florence received a classical education at Lea Hurst which included German, Italian and French. As early as age 16, Florence had a strong interest in caring for the sick. She knew her calling was nursing. There was no doubt to her that this was her divine calling.
Pursuing a career in nursing was looked down upon by the society at that time, especially for someone with an affluent background. After much opposition, Florence announced her decision to enter the field in 1844. She enrolled herself as a student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth, Germany.
She then worked hard to educate herself in the art and science of nursing. On her trips to Egypt and Paris, she realized that disciplined and well- organized nuns or sisters made better nurses than women in England. When she returned home she started visiting hospitals in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. In 1853, she was appointed Superintendent of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewoman.
In October 1853, the Crimean War broke out. A large number of British soldiers were sent to the front and by 1854 around 18000 soldiers were injured and admitted into military hospitals. In a letter from the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert, Florence Nightingale was requested to bring her nurses and tend to the soldiers. She and Sidney Herbert later became good friends.
She assembled a team of more than 30 nurses and sailed to Crimea immediately. The condition of the soldiers there was much worse than expected.
When they reached Scutari, the soldiers were in a horrible state due to the lack of proper sanitation and unhygienic surroundings. The medicine supply was little and the death rate was on an all time high. Nightingale quickly got to work and tried to lower the death rate. Apart from the basic sanitary precautions, she also improved the quality of their stay in the hospital.
The war was over by March 1856. An estimated 94000 men were sent to the war front, out of which almost 4000 died of battle wounds, 19000 died of diseases and 13000 were invalidated out of the Army. Florence returned to England as a national hero but she was deeply shocked by the mass death that took place right before her eyes because of poor sanitation. Therefore, she was determined to begin a campaign that would improve the quality of nursing in military hospitals. She started investigating before the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army and that resulted in the formation of the Army Medical College. In 1855, the Nightingale fund was set up to open up a training school for nurses. By 1860, £50,000 had been collected and The Nightingale School and Home for Nurses was established at St. Thomas Hospital.
The first trained Nightingale nurses began work on 16 May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. Now called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, the school is part of King’s College London. She also campaigned and raised funds for the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury near her sister’s home, Claydon House.
Nightingale wrote Notes on Nursing (1859). The book served as the cornerstone of the curriculum at the Nightingale School and other nursing schools, though it was written specifically for the education of those nursing at home. Nightingale wrote “Every day sanitary knowledge, or the knowledge of nursing, or in other words, of how to put the constitution in such a state as that it will have no disease, or that it can recover from disease, takes a higher place. It is recognized as the knowledge which every one ought to have – distinct from medical knowledge, which only a profession can have”
In 1883, Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria.
In 1904, she was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John (LGStJ). In 1907, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. In the following year she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London.
During the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale gained the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp” from a phrase in a report in The Times:
She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.
The phrase was further popularized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1857 poem “Santa Filomena (poem)”:
Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
On 13 August 1910, at the age of 90, she died peacefully in her sleep in her room at 10 South Street, Mayfair, London. The offer of burial in Westminster Abbey was declined by her relatives and she is buried in the graveyard at St. Margaret Church in East Wellow, Hampshire. She left a large body of work, including several hundred notes which were previously unpublished.
Florence Nightingale had a substantial influence on nursing care during her lifetime but that influence still continues today.
Original “Florence Nightingale Pledge”
I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practise my profession faithfully.
I shall abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and shall not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.
I shall do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.
I shall be loyal to my work and devoted towards the welfare of those committed to my care.
- “Practical Nurse Pledge”, a modern version based on the “Nightingale Pledge”
Before God and those assembled here, I solemnly pledge;
To adhere to the code of ethics of the nursing profession;
To co-operate faithfully with the other members of the nursing team and to carryout [sic] faithfully and to the best of my ability the instructions of the physician or the nurse who may be assigned to supervise my work;
I will not do anything evil or malicious and I will not knowingly give any harmful drug or assist in malpractice.
I will not reveal any confidential information that may come to my knowledge in the course of my work.
And I pledge myself to do all in my power to raise the standards and prestige of the practical nursing;
May my life be devoted to service and to the high ideals of the nursing profession.