Florence Nightingale, an English noblewoman, was through all her life the friend of the poor, the weak, the sick, or unfortunate. She was of most delicate sensibilities, highly-trained intellect, purity of character, untiring patience and whole-hearted devotion to what she considered her life calling.
She was born in Florence, Italy, in 1820. Her father was a wealthy Englishman, Squire of Embly Park, Hampshire, and Lea Hurst, Derbyshire. Her education was quite complete in science, mathematics, literature and music. She acquired proficiency in using English, German, French and Italian languages.
Unwilling to abandon her life to the mere pursuit of her own happiness, and the flattering attentions of admiring friends, she early withdrew herself from the luxuries of her wealth afforded. A great unrest possessed her. Life had a broader, deeper, nobler purpose to this fair and frail young woman. Her heart yearned to smooth the pillow of the suffering, and relieve the miseries of the sick. Gradually she found her true calling.
She visited the best hospitals in London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Kaiserwerth, Berlin, Paris, Lyons, Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople and Brussels, examining their structures, management, treatments of diseases, their perfections and defects. She enrolled as a nurse in Pastor Fliedner’s Deaconess Hospital in Kaiserwerth, Germany, learning the whole system of nursing.
In England, up to that time, nursing was done either by men or the most vulgar class of women, who doped their patients with medicine and themselves with rum. They were not respected as a class, and their calling was despised. Hence it was considered a very unworthy and indelicate task to which Florence Nightingale devoted her young life.
Florence Nightingale felt confident that, in the providence of God, the opportunity would come to benefit mankind by her practical knowledge. So she spared no pains to prepare herself.
From Kaiserwerth she went in training at Paris among the sisters. Love, not money, was the motive power in her labors. For Christ’s sake she sacrificed herself to others. Those who consume all upon themselves miss true happiness in its very pursuit. Those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake find it again.
In 1853 war, terrible, bloody, heart-rending, was waged by England and France against Russian. The Crimea became the scene of great horror, pestilence and blood-shed. The army hospitals were unsanitary, the nurses were unskilled men, and the appliances meager, so that many died from lack of proper care and food. The plea was sent home for trained minds and hands. Recuperating in her beautiful home, Florence Nightingale heard the call, and answered, “Here am I, send me.”
Never had such a thing occurred before! Gentle-women nursing hundreds and thousands of wounded and dying! Many unjust jibes were hurled at Miss Nightingale and her thirty-eight picked nurses who went with her to the seat of war. They faithfully labored for two weary years. Sanitary conditions were improved; linen, food an medicines well provided, and the rate of mortality steadily decreased, now that medical wisdom had skilled hands to execute its orders. Reinforcements were sent as more nurses were needed, and the entire force was organized and governed by Miss Nightingale. From early morning until late at night she passed noiselessly from one cot to another, giving needed aid and a cheering smile, pointing by word and example to her Savior, and closing daily the eyes of the dead.
Loved and respected by the soldiers far from home, her name became honored in the homeland. Since that time, this sphere of usefulness for women has been unassailed [sic]and respected. When, after the war, she returned home to the loving bosom of her mother and friends, she was ever afterward and invalid. But even from her sick couch she directed institutions for the training of nurses.
Queen Victoria publicly honored her. Everywhere the reliefs of the Red Cross associations testify to the patriotism, devotion and constancy of Christian womanhood. “It is still worth while to be a woman.”
Reference: Men and Women of Deep Piety by Mrs. Clara McLeister. Edited and published by Rev. E.E. Shelhamer. ©1920.