Florence Nightingale 1820- 1910
Florence Nightingale was born to a wealthy landowner in in Florence, Italy. She was very close to her father, who was involved in the anti slavery movement. Florence was a very pretty young girl, who had many suitors. But this was not satisfying to Florence. According to her biographer,
"Florence was a good mimic, attractive to men, and had a number of suitors; many of the men she met through her parents remained lifelong friends…. In spite of these advantages Florence Nightingale was an unhappy young woman. She suffered from bouts of depression and feelings of unworthiness, and she questioned the purpose of life for the upper classes. Unlike her mother and sister, who were content to do good works on the estates, she pondered on the need for charity and the causes of poverty and unemployment." x
Florence refused several offers for marriage, and at the age of twenty-five decided to become a nurse. Her parents were not happy with this decision, because the career was associated with working class people. She insisted on the career, and was encouraged by other women including Elizabeth Blackwell. She studied in Germany and started working in London two years later.
It was during the Crimean War that 8,000 soldiers would fall ill with malaria and other diseases in Turkey. Florence Nightingale volunteered her services and was eventually given permission to take a group of thirty-eight nurses to Turkey. She found the soldiers in Turkey were in awful conditions. They had little good food and no blankets. There was very poor hygiene so disease was the main reason for death among the wounded soldiers.
She immediately began reforming the hospitals. Though commanders were at first insulted by her taking charge, they were forced to let her continue because of public outcry against the poor conditions. The wounded were very glad to have Nightingale,
”Florence Nightingale 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.” x
She became very popular in London and surrounding areas. Her admirers included Charles Dickens and Angela Burdett-Coutts. She returned from war as a national heroine. She was shocked with the conditions of military hospitals. She set out for reformation. In order to spread word, she published two books and was able to raise £59,000 to improve the quality of nursing. With this money, she established the Nightingale School & Home for Nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital. Nightingale also campaigned for women to have access to education and careers. Though she believed women should be educated, she was not so keen on women being doctors. She thought having better trained nurses was more important. Nightingale died in London in 1910.