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Introduction

Only known photo of Mary Seacole

Why another website about Mary Jane Seacole (née Grant) (1805-81), the Jamaican born doctress, now recognized as a major figure in British black history? So much misinformation about Seacole is now available in print, on websites (including those of highly reputable organizations) and in the social media that a source using reliable, carefully documented, material is badly needed.

If there are factual errors on this website, contact us. We undertake to correct them.

We invite authors and editors to correct the misinformation they have circulated, perhaps inadvertently, and undertake to note such corrections on this website.

We congratulate the National Portrait Gallery for correcting a major error in its website entry on Seacole, but it did not correct all its errors. Specifically, while the statement about Seacole having won medals after the Crimean War has been removed, the entry continues to identify her as a nurse rather than a doctress, the term Seacole used herself for her preparation and dispensing of herbal remedies.

Much misinformation about Seacole has been generated in a campaign to have her replace Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) as the major founder of the modern profession of nursing. Nightingale during the Crimean War was recognized as the “lady with the lamp,” a heroine and ministering angel, although these are not images that she, a hard working nurse, statistician, hospital and health care reformer particularly liked. The purpose here, however is not to add another website about Nightingale, but only to correct misinformation generated in the campaign for Seacole to replace her. On Nightingale’s life and work see www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn.

It is no coincidence that the place wanted for a Seacole memorial statue is St Thomas’ Hospital, site of the original Nightingale School, and the base of Nightingale’s more than 40 years of work in grounding nursing. Seacole is not known ever to have set foot in the hospital. She did not nurse in any hospital in Britain, trained and mentored no nurses, and made no contribution to improving hospital safety.

Mary Seacole, we believe, deserves recognition for her work. A fine bronze statue is a laudable means. However the campaign for Seacole should not be based on misrepresentation of her life and work, or a vilification campaign against any other person, certainly not Florence Nightingale. Our complaint is not with Seacole, however, but with the supporters who misrepresent her, and, so often, in the course denigrate Nightingale.

Mary Seacole’s own memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands we take to be the main source of Seacole’s own views. Originally published in 1857, it has since appeared in five editions, with introductions of varying amounts of information and misinformation. See following section.

All reference sources for Nightingale and Seacole are listed in Sources.

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