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Florence Nightingale statue England

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale photograph

While Florence Nightingale was not a direct relative of mine, she did have a strong family connection. This connection was through my cousin, Lady Augusta Frederica Stanley (nee Bruce). 

Florence first appears in my family history through her friendship with Mary Elizabeth "Clarkey" Clarke-Mohl, who was a mutual friend of Florence and Augusta and often had both ladies at her Paris salon in the 1800's. 

Florence was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy to wealthy English parents. Florence's parents moved their family back to England in 1821 and Florence was raised in the family homes at Emblem, Hampshire and Lea Hurst in Derbyshire. Florence was educated by her father.

In 1838, while on a family tour of Europe, Florence met Clarkey in Paris. Clarkey had little use for female companionship, especially those from the upper classes of England, but the two women formed a bond which would last the rest of their lives. While I don't know the exact date that my cousin, Lady Augusta, would have met Florence, it would have been sometime after her father's death in 1841 when her mother moved their family to Paris.

Florence Nightingale is referred to as "The Lady With The Lamp" during the Crimean War in which she nursed wounded soldiers. Although some of her Crimean War involvement may have been exaggerated for the newspaper readers in England, there can be no doubt that her contributions to modern day nursing were impressive.

Florence established her nursing school at the St. Thomas' Hospital in London in 1860, the first secular nursing school in the world. Florence was also a prolific writer, sharing medical knowledge in simple English to allow other less-educated nurses around the world to easily understand the text. Florence also went against her parent's wishes - they wanted her to get married and raise children - and entered the nursing profession. Florence wasn't without her suitors though, and one in particular, Richard Moncton Milnes, pursued Florence for 9 years. Florence rejected Richard however, fearing that marrying him would interfere with her nursing career.

Florence's nursing career obviously had an impact on my cousin, Lady Augusta, as Augusta also invested her time, money and influence (she was a close personal friend of Queen Victoria) in the Westminster Hospital. After my cousin's sudden death in 1876, the Westminster Training School was opened in 1881 as a memorial to my cousin and her work with the poor and the ill.

Florence was highly skilled with statistics, and she used this gift to help illustrate the deadly impact of poor ventilation, contaminated water, overcrowding and poor drainage had on the English soldiers in India. After adopting Florence's suggested reforms, she showed that the mortality rate of the India based soldiers declined from 69 to 18 out of every 1,000 soldiers. This change took place over the course of 10 years, but it was a dramatic improvement.

Florence also pushed her sanitation reforms on the English government and is credited with helping to improve the life expectancy by 20 years between 1871 and the 1930's. No significant medical advancements against most fatal infectious diseases during this period, only improved sanitary conditions made a significant impact on society.

Florence lived until August 13, 1910, dying peacefully in her sleep at the age of 90 in her Mayfair, London home. 

While not a direct relative of mine, Florence Nightingale was a significant part of one of my cousin's lives, and her work and dedication to her craft no doubt had a significant impact on millions of people around the globe. 

The photo shown is of the Florence Nightingale memorial statue in Waterloo Place, London (outside the hotel I normally stay at while in London).


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