14 May 2018

Remember 'Mother Seacole'

A memorial statue stares proudly across the River Thames, dramatically showing this incredible woman's cape caught in the wind, with a backdrop of the Crimean War battlefield. Thanks to the donations of thousands of people this is the UK's first known statue honouring a black woman. Jamaican-born nurse, Mary Seacole was a truly remarkable woman who left her mark on healthcare history.

Today, on the anniversary of her death, we remember the brave work she carried out at the front line of the Crimean War. In recent years she has been compared to Florence Nightingale, with few people knowing how far she actually went. It can be argued that she went a step further than Nightingale, by riding on horseback into the battlefields!

1805 - 1881

Born in 1805 Mary learnt her nursing skills from her Jamaican mother, she traveled to many parts of Central America, the Caribbean and Britain gaining further medical knowledge before asking to be sent to Crimea as an army nurse to join Florence Nightingale and her team of nurses. 


Nothing stops her!

Refused by the War Office this didn't stop Mary! She funded her own trip to Crimea where she established a British Hotel to provide "comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers". It is said that she sold everything she had. A hut made out of metal sheets, here soldiers could rest and buy hot food and equipment, Mary used this money to help treat for sick and wounded soldiers. 

Going a step further

Not deterred by the battlefield Mary knew that there were soldiers who couldn't get to her British Hotel, so she bravely rode on horseback to the battlefield, even under fire, to help wounded soldiers. Through her incredible care she became known as 'Mother Seacole' - a reputation that could rival Nightingale.

What we know of Mary comes mainly from her biography, 'the Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands'. But after her death in 1881 it wasn't until the late 70s that she become widely known. this led to a 12 year campaign to raise over £500,000 to raise a statue to remember her. Remembered for how she broke social rules and prejudices to leave her mark on the world, she put her life on the line to save others. 

While the achievements of Florence Nightingale cannot be uncredited, these two women become heroes in their own right, both providing unrivalled nursing and saving countless lives throughout the Crimean War.