English Philanthropist & Found of the Modern Nursing System
1820 – 1910 A.D.
Florence Nightingale, an English philanthropist, and founder of the modern nursing system. Born of wealthy parents, highly educated, her favorite study was the methods of caring for the sick, and while a girl she visited numerous hospitals. In 1851 she took charge of a sanatorium for infirm and invalid governesses in London, and soon brought it to a high state of efficiency.
In 1954 when British soldiers were dying of neglect in military hospitals and the nation was startled with the horror of the cry of the perishing at Scutari, Florence Nightingale answered the cry, and accompanied by forty women nurses, went out to the Crimean War. From her inspiration have grown all the Red Cross societies of the world. She scourged corruption and uncleanness from the hospitals, she gave food to the starving, clothes to the naked, comfort to the sufferers. She made the hospital a place of healing, not a foul couch on which famished, feverished victims were thrown to death. And the wonderful work of this quiet, scholarly woman from a secluded English drawing-room was done against the wishes of her friends and against public opinion.
Even the doctors and officers objected, and met her ideas with scorn, but the authority with which she was armed enabled her to go on. She worked twenty hours a day, received the wounded, and dressed their wounds until the surgeons could take them in hand. She washed and clothed and comforted them. She sat with them, encouraging them before an operation, and made them feel that mercy had come on angel wings into their bitter lives. She stayed the winter at Scutari and made a revolution. Whereas the deaths had averaged forty-two in every hundred they were now down to about two in every hundred.
In the midst of her work she was struck down with fever, but would not go home until the last British soldier had left the hospital and the war was over.
She returned to England in 1956 with broken health which was never fully restored. Queen Victoria sent her a jewel and a letter of thanks, a fund of £50,000 was raised to found a school for nurses under her direction, and the soldiers of the Crimean war made a penny contribution to raise a statue in her honor, which she would not permit.
She lived to be ninety years old, but never recovered from the hardships and overwork of earlier days, and kept out of sight of the public, while cabinet ministers would go to see her, and architects building new hospitals or barracks or schools consulted her. From all lands and appeals came for her help, and she denied her aid to none.
During the Crimean War, it was said of her:
“When the long day’s work was done she would go to her little stuffy room to begin her correspondence; then, after a time, when the surgeons had retired and the wards and corridors were dark, she would take her little lamp and steal quietly through the silent rooms among the sick and dying men. She would kneel by bed after bed to speak a word of comfort; she would give medicine here, food or drink there. And the men worshipped her, and called her the Lady with the Lamp – a lamp destined to shine for ages.”
She described nursing as:
“an art; and if it is to be made an art it requires as exclusive a devotion as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; and for what is the having to do with dead canvas or cold marble compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit? Nursing is one of the fine arts; I almost said the finest of the fine arts.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.