Lecture: Mary Seacole – Myths in the Making of the Nursing Profession

Book Here 14.00 Wednesday 10th April 2019 King’s College London

In this talk, Lynn McDonald will relate Mary Seacole’s many contributions, using her own fine memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, and a number of other primary sources. She will then present the Seacole myths that have grown over recent years, drawing on nursing textbooks, historical and reference books, and children’s books.

Comparison will be made with the myths associated with Florence Nightingale, from exaggerations in the Crimean War period to attacks on her from the late 20th century on.

The contributions of a Nigerian nursing leader, Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, will be introduced: a nurse trained at the Nightingale School, supported by the Royal College of Nursing, later a fellow of the RCN, the first black nurse in the NHS and the major founder of professional nursing in Nigeria.

Lynn will show that widely accepted narratives about both Nightingale and Seacole are wrong, when credible primary sources are used. The role of historians, nursing leaders, the NHS, Department of Health, RCN and unions in revisionism will be discussed.

A question and answer session with Lynn will follow her talk. A drinks reception will follow the lecture.

About the speaker: Lynn McDonald PhD LLD (hon) is Professor Emerita at the University of Guelph and former member of the House of Commons of Canada. She is editor of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, and author of Mary Seacole: The Making of the Myth (2014) and Florence Nightingale, Nursing, and Health Care Today (2018). Lynn is co-founder of the Nightingale Society, which promotes the legacy of Florence Nightingale.

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2 Comments on Lecture: Mary Seacole – Myths in the Making of the Nursing Profession

  1. Never heard of this exceptional woman Seacole before, and was confused by Peter Mullens’s recent allusion to her. Thank you. I shall not be flying over to attend this commemoration, but to paraphrase the words of Kipling concerning Gunga Din: You’re a better person than I, Mary Seacole.

  2. It’s not just Seacole about whom myths abound. The primary school image of Nightingale as a kindly carer, a stereotypical compassionate female, a lady with a lamp is also far from the truth. She was more like a Maggie Thatcher and had to be to get the dullards of the army medical corps to recognise they were more dangerous to our troops than the enemy. For example – ‘The medical services would have been adequate,’ said the Crimean Surgeon General, ‘if it hadn’t been for the casualties.’ I’ve seen one of Nightingales books in which the rose diagram appeared for the first time (I believe) now morphed into pie charts, a standard way of data representation. It’s a beautiful thing that folds out and displays in shocking colour that deaths from disease and bad hygiene were what we were really up against in the Crimea.