FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: At First Hand

Article excerpt

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: At First Hand LYNN MCDONALD Wilfrid Laurier University Press

REVIEW BY MICHELE LANDSBERG

The image of Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp, fades into a fuzzy stereotype, brightens, then fades again with the passing decades and changing status of women.

Since the 1950s, when nurses were forced into a servile role in relation to male doctors. Nightingale has often taken the rap for this demeaning concept of the nursing profession. Nothing could be further from the truth, and, luckily, Canada has the world's leading expert on Nightingale's work and thought to set the record straight.

Lynn McDonald goes straight to the original sources - Nightingale's letters, diaries and articles - in this compact book written to mark the centenary of her death in 1910 at the age of 90.

An upper-class Englishwoman, a devout Christian and a lifelong celibate, Nightingale makes an easy target for careless debunkers. In fact, she was an astonishingly tough, brilliant and open-minded campaigner for progressive social and economic change. A liberal (today she would be a social democrat), she ardently opposed the cold-hearted laissez-faire policies that dominated in her day and were to return a century later with Margaret Thatcher. …