Pioneering Nurses

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Author: M. Heath
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This lesson explores how discrimination
can prevent people from making a full
contribution to society.
Have you heard of:
• Florence Nightingale
• Mary Seacole
In March 1853 Russia invaded Turkey.
England and France were very worried about
the growing power of Russia, and went to
Turkey’s aid. The Crimean Peninsular became a
battle ground.
The ‘Crimean War’ began in 1854.
It was to last two years.
Conditions in the army hospital in Scutari were
appalling. Wounded soldiers lay in their army
uniforms that were "stiff with dirt and gore".
They had no blankets to cover them, and
nothing healthy to eat.
Wounds only accounted for one death in six.
Diseases such as typhoid, cholera and
dysentery were the main reasons why so many
soldiers lost their lives.
Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 to wealthy
parents while they were on a two year honeymoon
in Florence, Italy.
Her parents wanted her to marry a rich man,
but she wanted to become a nurse. Her
parents were opposed to this, as nursing was
considered to be a job for poor women.
Eventually, when Florence was 31, her father
gave her permission to train.
Two years later she was appointed resident
lady superintendent of a hospital for women in
Harley Street, London.
Mary Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in
1805. At the time most black people were
enslaved to the owners of sugar plantations.
Because she was of mixed race, she wasn’t a
slave, but her family had few civil rights. They
could not vote, or enter the professions.
However, her
mother was well
known in her home
town as a healer and
she taught her
daughter how to
treat wounds,
diseases and minor
When Florence Nightingale heard about
the thousands of men suffering from
disease in the Crimea, she volunteered
her services to the British army.
She was eventually given permission to
take a group of thirty-eight nurses to
Mary Seacole had travelled widely,
and had learned to cure people
suffering from Cholera and
Typhoid, using her gentle herbal
She recounted her adventures in a
book ‘The Wonderful Adventures
of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands’.
Despite her special skills and knowledge,
Mary’s application to join Florence
Nightingale’s group of nurses was
turned down, because she was black.
Nevertheless, Mary decided to pay for
the 3,000 mile journey herself, and
made her own way to the Crimea.
Florence Nightingale and her nurses
were based in a hospital several miles
from the front.
Here, by insisting on order,
cleanliness and hygiene she
was able to dramatically
reduce the death-rate of her
Every night she toured the
wards carrying a Turkish oil
Mary started up a business called the
British Hotel, a few miles from the
battlefront. Here she sold food and
drink to the British soldiers.
With the money she earned from her
business, Mary was able to finance the
free medical treatment she gave to the
It is said that Mary
worked from 5 a.m.
until 8 p.m. at night.
Often she would be
seen treating
wounded soldiers
from both sides on
the battlefield, while
the battle was still
at the
battle of
In 1856 Florence Nightingale returned to
England as a national heroine.
She had been deeply shocked by the lack of
organisation, hygiene and elementary care
that wounded men received from the British
She began a campaign to improve the quality
of nursing in military hospitals.
Later that year she had
a special interview with
Queen Victoria.
Florence died in 1910
at the age of ninety.
The ‘Lady of the
Lamp’ is still revered
as one of the most
famous women in
British History.
Mary Seacole was awarded medals by
the British, Turkish and French in
commemoration of her work with the
soldiers of all nationalities.
After the Crimean war, Mary
Seacole divided her time between
Jamaica and England She died in
London in 1881 at the age of 76.
Sadly, after her death,
The name of Mary
Seacole was all too
quickly forgotten.
Click for Crossword
150 years later ……….
‘One of the principle factors in
transmitting infections in hospitals is
related to hospital staff not cleaning
their hands properly.’
Professor Robert Pratt,
A report has suggested that as many as
5,000 patients a year could be dying
from infections caught in hospital.
It estimated that a total of 100,000
people may catch bugs in hospital each
Both Mary and Florence had to
overcome the prejudices of their times.
How did they do this?
Do we have any prejudices
nowadays which stop groups of
people fulfilling their ambitions?
Can you name three other famous
black or Asian people.
Find out more about them.
Prepare a presentation for the class.
• Prejudice – bias, discrimination
• Hygiene - cleanliness
• Transmitting – passing on, sending out
• Ambitions – goals, aims
Activities to complete this lesson include:
• crossword puzzle
• experiment to
test different
methods of hand
Click on the image above to view
and/or download learning activities.
Rate this lesson here.
If you enjoyed this lesson, why not try:
Sacrificing All for the Dream
How Martin Luther King achieved change through
peaceful protest. The nature of prejudice.
Prevention is Better than Cure
How tragedies can be avoided if preventative measures
are taken. Safety in the home, school etc. Why humans
need to take risks.
Useful Web Links
– all you need to know about Mary
dex.shtml - quiz and learning about Florence Nightingale for kids
vdoctorsrev2.shtml - history of women in medicine
• –
resources on the history of women in medicine