The Age of Hospital Reform

Florence Nightingale 1820-1910

"The Lady with The Lamp"


In history very few notable women have influenced the society they lived in. Eve in Genesis was the first to radically influence the world as her giving in to temptation introduced man to death. There is Helen of Troy, this Spartan woman was said to have been responsible for a ten year war. You could also name Mary mother of Jesus or the great Queens such as Elizabeth I, Victoria or Catherine the Great of Russia.

Florence Nightingale was a woman that was to change the face of the hospital environment and patient care radically.
In the mid-19th century, women were to be seen and not heard, especially when their voice was political or contradicted the established view.

The reformers of the 19th century were in most part, men (how many influenced by women is unknown) a typical example was the slave trade reformer William Wilberforce who happened to be a close friend of Miss Nightingales father and mother, who was herself a very active supporter of the slavery abolition campaign.

In hospitals, the administration of most tasks was done by men, mostly doctors, whose authority was never or rarely challenged. Nurses were not as a result and invention of Florence Nightingale they had been around for centuries. In the 17th century they were being paid 4 shillings a week. 
Florence Nightingale was born on 12th May 1820 of wealthy parents in the Villa La Columbia, Florence Italy.

She as a young lady was determined to be a nurse, against the wishes of her parents.

She was extremely well educated and had influential friends in high places. Lord Palmerstone, who was the Prime Minister during the Crimean War, was a close friend of the Nightingale family; his estate in Hampshire adjoined theirs.

The Crimean war broke out in March 1854, and initially all the country was behind the government’s decision to deploy the troops to battle.
This was the time that the press was becoming more and more proactive, sending reporters on deployments, the Times Newspaper sent one such reporter to the war zone. The reports that were sent back by Irishman William Russell the Times reporter, shocked the country as a whole, public opinion started to turn away from supporting the government, to one of horror, distress and sheer anger because of the lack of support being given to the troops, especially the wounded located at Scutari Hospital.

The cause of this war was a dispute between Russia and France over the Palestinian holy places. Challenging the claim of Russia to guardianship of the holy places, France in 1852 secured from Sultan Abd al-Majid certain privileges for the Latin churches. Russian counter demands were turned down by the powerful Ottoman government.

In July, 1853, Russia retorted by occupying the Ottoman vassal states of Moldavia and Walachia, and in October, after futile negotiations, the Ottomans declared war.
In 1854, Britain and France, having already dispatched fleets to the Black Sea, declared war on Russia; Sardinia followed suit in 1855. In Sept., 1854, allied troops landed in the Crimea, with the object of capturing Sevastopol. The Russian fortress, defended by Totleben, resisted heroically until Sept., 1855.


"I have lived and slept in the same bed with English countesses and Prussian farm women... no woman has excited passions among women more than I have."187




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