Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Florence Nightingale: The Making of a Radical Theologian

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Florence Nightingale: The Making of a Radical Theologian

Article excerpt

Florence Nightingale: The Making of a Radical Theologian. By Val Webb. St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press, 2002. xxiii + 363 pp. $34.99 (cloth).

In elementary school, I was told the stoiy of Florence Nightingale, "the lady with the lamp." VaI Webb expands that story and provides us with the theological and spiritual biography of this woman who changed the face of nursing and hospital care, sought to find ways to provide sanitary living conditions in India, and fought for the right of women to follow God's calling. She was decidedly more than what we were taught.

Webb does an excellent job in presenting the accomplishments and thoughts of this amazing Victorian woman. Recently, I heard a homilist suggest that Nightingale did not deserve to be on the sanctorale of the Anglican Church of Canada. At the time I did not understand why he said this except that he could be referring to her Unitarian upbringing. This denomination was her father's conviction because he resented the autocracy and lethargy of the Church of England. Florence was opposed to the Church of England because it reinforced the demeaning status of unmarried women in Victorian society. She fought her whole life against the idea that women either had to be married and grace their husband's dinner table or single and exploited by other members of the extended family as helpmates and free nurses. Similarly, Florence saw the Church of England as existing for men not caring about or allowing the vocations of women. Nightingale spent her life from 1837 forward fighting for the liberation of women. …

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