English Philanthropist and Crimean Nurse
1820 – 1910 A.D.
Her father was William Edward Shore, a Sheffield banker. He fell heir to the estates of Peter Nightingale, and by the requirements of the will took the name of Nightingale.
Florence was a thorough student from childhood and became well versed in modern languages, but she seemed endowed with a taste and talent for hospital work. When very young she often visited the hospitals and ministered to the sick.
As a young woman she went to Germany and took a course of training in a school of deaconesses at Kaiserswerth which was conducted by Pastor Fleidner. Her first work upon returning to England was to superintend a home for sick and infirm governesses.
The sufferings of the soldiers in the Crimea was a call to larger duties, and she went as superintendent of a corps of volunteer female nurses. A hospital was established at Scutari and in two days six hundred soldiers were under her care. In three weeks the number had reached three thousand.
There had been horrible neglect and mismanagement in caring for the men previous to this, but Miss Nightingale was a born general as well as nurse. By her calm but firm direction, order was brought out of chaos. Her endurance seemed superhuman. The correspondent and commissioner of the London Times wrote, “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.”
She was a ministering angel to the poor soldiers, and many would kiss her shadow as it fell across their poor forms. One soldier said, “Before she came there was much cussin’ and swearin’; but after that it was as holy as a church.” She was not welcomed by either the military or medical officers and was obliged to almost fight her way. Too many of them cared more for their positions and red tape than for dying soldiers. But healthy English sentiment was so strong that soon all the hospitals were placed under her superintendence.
Miss Nightingale contracted hospital fever, and over two years of toil was obliged to return to England. Queen Victoria sent her a jewel and a letter of thanks. The soldiers of the Crimea desired to erect a statue in her honor, but this she declined.
The grateful people of England subscribed £50,000 as a testimonial, and this was devoted to the erection of “Nightingale Home,” which is the great institution of England for the training of nurses.
The pioneer work of Florence Nightingale as an army nurse was the inspiration and model for American women in the civil war.
The Queen’s gift to Miss Nightingale was a cross blazing with diamonds and bearing this inscription:
“TO FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE
AS A MARK OF ESTEEM AND GRATITUDE
FOR HER DEVOTION TOWARDS THE
QUEEN’S BRAVE SOLDIERS.
From Victoria R., 1855.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.