Bits & Bobs
Sandy Jack, Eastbourne
100th Anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s death
Florence Nightingale was born in Italy on 12 May 1820 and was named Florence after her birthplace. Florence and her sister Parthenope were both taught at home by their Cambridge University educated father. Florence was an academic child, who loved her lessons and found studying easy, while her sister excelled at painting and needlework.
In 1837, Florence had what she described as her ‘calling’ – the voice of God calling her to do His work, but at this time she had no idea what that work would be.
In 1851, Florence Nightingale went to Kaiserswerth and undertook three months nurse training, which enabled her to take a vacancy as Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness at No. 1 Harley Street, London, in 1853.
In March 1854, Britain, France and Turkey declared war on Russia. The allies defeated the Russians at the battle of the Alma in September but reports in The Times criticized the British medical facilities for the wounded. In response, Sidney Herbert, the Minister for War, who knew Florence Nightingale socially and through her work at Harley Street, appointed her to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey.
On 4 November 1854, Florence Nightingale arrived at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, a suburb on the Asian side of Constantinople, with a party of thirty-eight nurses. Initially, the doctors did not want the nurses there and did not ask for their help, but within ten days fresh casualties arrived from the battle of Inkermann and the nurses were fully stretched. The ‘Lady-in-Chief’, as Florence was called, wrote home on behalf of the soldiers. She acted as a banker, sending the men’s wages home to their families, and introduced reading rooms to the hospital. In return she gained the undying respect of the British soldiers.
In November 1856, Miss Nightingale took a hotel room in London which became the centre for the campaign for a Royal Commission to investigate the health of the British Army. When Sidney Herbert was appointed chairman, she continued as a driving force behind the scenes.
By 1860, the Royal Commission had resulted in an Army Medical School, greatly improved Army barracks and hospitals, and the best Army statistics in Europe. During the decade from 1862 her main concerns were the health of the Army in India and the state of Indian public health, the development of irrigation and the system of land tenure.
For her contribution to Army statistics and comparative hospital statistics in 1860, Florence Nightingale became the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the Statistical Society.
In 1865, she settled at 10 South Street, Mayfair, in the West End of London and apart from occasional visits to Embley, Lea Hurst and to her sister at Claydon House she lived there till her death.
In recognition of her hard work Queen Victoria awarded Miss Nightingale the Royal Red Cross in 1883. In her old age she received many honours, including the Order of Merit (1907), becoming the first woman to receive it.
Florence Nightingale died at home at the age of 90 on 13 August 1910 and, according to her wishes, she was buried at St Margaret’s, East Wellow, near her parent’s home, Embley Park.
(This is a edited version of an article which can be found at http://www.smsc.org.uk/resources/features/florence-nightingale.htm)