The Pioneers

Mary Seacole 1805?-1881

Mary Seacole, is the second nurse of the Nightingale era. Rejected by Florence Nightingale, (some suggest because of race reasons) when the call was made by the Times Newspaper for nurses to go to the Crimea.

She was definitely born in Kingston on the Island of Jamaica and christened Mary Jane Grant, she had a Creole Mother and a Scottish father, (or how she wrote in her book "A scotch father")who was it believed to be an Army officer. She was taught herbal medicine and nursing from an early age by her mother.

She travelled to London in 1836 and met and married Edwin Horatio Seacole and godson of Admiral Lord Nelson. Her husband died years later and Mary returned to the Caribbean to assist her mother who was a herbalist and also ran a boarding house.

In 1850 she travelled to Panama to visit her brother and cared single-handedly with a cholera epidemic when the American doctor fled from the scene.

It was whilst she was in Panama that she heard about the war in the Crimea. She returned to England in 1854 and offered her services, but was rejected by Nightingale, several times.

Mary refused to have her dreams of caring for her beloved British soldiers thwarted.  In collaboration with Mr Thomas Day, a relative of her late husband,  Mary successfully raised funds to pay for her passage to the Crimea where she set up the British Hotel. 

 This provided soldiers with accommodation, food, other provisions and nursing care.  Mary Seacole arrived in the Crimea in February of 1855. In September was the first woman to enter Sevastopol from the English lines. she funded her own passage to the Crimea.332

It is a sad fact that she received hardly any recognition during her time in the Crimea, except of course from the sick and injured who described her as a wonderful woman.

Below is a verse of a poem written about her after the war.

"She gave her aid to all who prayed, To hungry, and sick, and cold: Open hand and heart, alike ready to part Kind words, and acts, and gold." 331

She published her book wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in 1857.

William Russell wrote of her

"I will have witnessed her devotion and her courage...and I trust that England will not forget the one who nursed her sick and sought out her wounded to aid and succour them and who performed the last office for some of her illustrious dead" 330




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