Mary Seacole

About the life of Mary. A good comparison when looking at Florence Nightingale.

Last updated 14 November 2014, created 15 March 2008
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17 Reviews

  • 1

    This resource, alas viewed 37,233 times, contains much misinformation--points that conflict notably with Seacole’s own account of what she did, in her book, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, 1857. Read it!!! 1. The first slide has a photo of her wearing 3 medals, but she was awarded none of them, nor ever claimed to have won any in her book. Nor does she wear medals in the picture of her on the book’s cover. She did wear medals, back in England, after the Crimean War, but it was not then an offence to wear other people’s medals (it is now). 2. Seacole did say that she used herbals in her cholera remedy, but she also admitted to adding “sugar of lead” (lead acetate) and calomel (mercury chloride) (p. 31), both of which are toxic substances, and both of which promote dehydration--exactly what you don’t want with a bowel disease. The effective treatment now is “oral rehydration therapy.” She frankly acknowledged “lamentable blunders” in her remedies (p. 31). She was in Jamaica when there was a terrible yellow fever epidemic, but she conceded that she could do nothing to treat it. As for her “carrying out operations on people suffering from wounds caused by fighting in the wars,” what wars? None that she mentioned, and Jamaica was not at war at the time. 4. Seacole’s never claimed to have gone to London to help combat a cholera epidemic, but explained that she went to attend to her gold stocks (Wonderful Adventures pp. 71-74). The War Office was pressed to send women nurses to the war, but it turned to Florence Nightingale because she was the most qualified person. Mrs Seacole had never nursed a day in a hospital in her life--she was in London at the time--but to attend to her investments! 5. Seacole described asking to join Nightingale’s team, but also made it clear that she only began to try AFTER Nightingale and her group had already left, and indeed the second team had either gone or was in the last stages of preparation. Remember, she was in London on business. Seacole described a cordial visit to Nightingale at her hospital at Scutari, when she asked for a bed for the night (pp. 90-91). She was en route then to the Crimea, her supplies already in transit, and her business partner there waiting for her. Nightingale did not turn her down--there was no offer. 6. Seacole did start a business near the front line, but it was for OFFICERS not ordinary soldiers--and the prices would have been well beyond them. The helping “injured soldiers” claim is also a gross exaggeration, for Seacole missed the first three, major, battles of the war. She did help, but only on 3 occasions, as she made clear in her book. Her battlefield excursion all took place post-battle, after selling sandwiches and wine to spectators. Yes, she was kind to soldiers on the battlefield, but the account here is out of all proportion. In the two years of the war, Seacole spent less time on the battlefield than any nurse did on a regular hospital shift. For other corrections of Seacole misinformation see

  • 5

    Really helpful thank you

  • 4

    Thanks for that - Very random as I'm from Wrea Green!!!

  • 5

    Very good resource. Thanks for this.

  • 5

    very very good resource, many thanks.

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