Mary Seacole was a Jamaican born nurse who assisted with the war effort during the Crimean War (1853-1856.) She travelled to the Crimea on her own expense to treat soldiers on both sides of the conflict, often going further on the frontlines, placing herself in danger. A well-respected women, soldiers spoke highly of her and her biography has several comments from soldiers she treated who praised her efforts. The biography begins with her early life, in a few pages she explains her background, her childhood and her short-lived marriage, after which she became widowed.
After a cholera outbreak in Jamaica, she begins to travel to Panama with her brother. She goes into much detail about her journey to the Crimea, first visiting North America. She discusses her experience based on her skin and the prejudice attitudes that she faced, even among those who admired her work. Describing herself as Creole, she had disdain for Americans that she felt was reasonable “I think, if I have a prejudice against our cousin across the Atlantic- and I do confess little- it is not unreasonable.” Due to her later experience at a gathering when the orator introducing her stated “you’re all as vexed as I am that she’s not wholly white-, but I do reckon on your rejoicing with me that she’s so many shades removed from being entirely black and I guess, if wee could bleach her by any means we would” which offended her. In addition to this, she speaks of her meeting with Florence Nightingale after unsuccessfully applying to travel with her as a nurse, being rejected due to her racial background.
THIS EXCELLENT WOMAN HAS FREQUENTLY EXERTED HERSELF IN THE MOST PRAISEWORTHY MANNER
A large portion of her biography describes her experience treating patients at the Crimea, battling several Cholera outbreaks. She discusses her medical and herbal treatments and dosages and keeping patients in good spirits. It appears that people she knew died during the war and this upset her greatly, but it was clear that Seacole was proud of her medical work in the Crimea and was appreciated by those she helped. Her bedside manner was exalted “She gave her aid to all who prayed, to hungry and sick and cold” by Punch magazine (1841-1992), the British weekly and humour magazine that contained humour and satire. She also briefly spoke of her life in Jamaica and the remedies which grow in plants “So true is it that beside the nettle grows the cure for its sting.” In addition to the Crimea, she gives shorter accounts of her experiences in Panama, Italy and Jamaica, as she travelled to many places and met many French and Turkish people.
BESIDE THE NETTLE GROWS THE CURE FOR ITS STING
Seacole appeared to have made many friends who testified to her skill and professionalism during the war effort and she appreciated their comments so much that they are printed in her biography “I cannot leave the Crimea without testifying to the kindness and skill of Mrs. Seacole and may God reward her for it” (James Wallen, Army Corp) In 2004 she was voted the Greatest Black Briton and is best remembered for her bravery and skill “This excellent woman has frequently exerted herself in the most praiseworthy manner in attending wounded men, even in positions of great danger and in assisting sick soldiers by all means in her power” (William. P, 1866.)
Mary Seacole Biography
‘Who is Mary Seacole and why is Google paying tribute to her with a Doodle?’
BBC- History- The Crimean War