Mary Seacole 1805 – 1881
Mary Seacole was a nurse and herbalist, of Jamaican and Scottish parentage, who became famous in Victorian times for helping British troops in the Crimean War.
Despite extensive nursing experience Mary Seacole’s offer to help in the Crimea was rejected by the British government so she made her own way to the war zone – setting up the British Hotel at her own cost. Here, she provided care to soldiers. The hospitals set up by the British, under Florence Nightingale, were three days sailing from the Crimea — Mary Seacole, however, worked under the heat and danger of battle. Her courage and nursing skills were reported in the British press and at the time she was as well known to the public as Florence Nightingale. In 1856 her efforts on behalf of the troops were rewarded with the Crimea medal presented by Queen Victoria.
After the war, she returned penniless to England and wrote a best-selling autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. I have this book – it’s a fascinating read.
Unlike her contemporary, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole was largely forgotten after her death. I certainly wasn’t taught anything about her when I was at school. Today, however, she is introduced to children early on at primary school, alongside Florence Nightingale and other significant Victorians.
Click on picture above for a slide show of Mary Seacole-related images.