Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Florence Nightingale at First Hand

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Florence Nightingale at First Hand

Article excerpt

Florence Nightingale at First Hand. By Lynn McDonald. (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010, Pp. xv, 197. CN $24.95); Florence Nightingale's Suggestions for Thought, Volume 11 of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingak. Edited by Lynn McDonald. (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008, Pp. xiv, 794. CN $150.00.)

Justly famous as the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale's fame has endured from the 1850s until today. The two books under review here provide ample evidence as to why this should be so. As both author and editor Lynn McDonald has spent much of her professional career probing virtually every aspect of Nightingale's ninety years of life. And what an amazingly productive life it was, which Nightingale's sixteen-volume Collected Works - edited principally by McDonald - makes clear. But if the received public image of Nightingale continues to be that of the "Lady of the Lamp," then both her own Suggestions for Thought and McDonald's short biography - published to mark the centenary of Nightingale's death - show her to have been a hard-headed, clear-thinking reformer, in addition to a heroic nurse.

Born into wealth and social standing, Nightingale was raised to be an English gentlewoman. But in 1836, at the age of sixteen, she received a "call to service" diat changed her life. The kind of service she had in mind was that of nurse. Her parents, however, would not allow it. Nursing was then the province of the lower classes and as such it was regarded as wholly unrespectable. Eventually, and despite the social opprobrium in which nursing was held, young Florence was allowed to travel to Germany and France in order to both observe and gain practical nursing experience with Lutheran deaconesses and Roman Catholic nuns. Following these experiences she was determined to devote herself to the nursing vocation. Her persistence finally convinced her father to bestow upon her an annuity in 1853, which she used to become the superintendent of a small hospital for women of means in London.

While there Nightingale quickly turned herself into a knowledgeable nursing practitioner, with a keen eye for modernization. By 1854, her reputation in the field was such that she was asked by the British Government (she volunteered at approximately the same time) to travel to the Barracks Hospital at Scutari to see if the appalling mortality rate of Britain's Crimean War solthers could be reduced. …

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