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Women in History- Florence Nightingale

Early in life, Florence knew she wanted to choose a life of service to others.  Born into a family of wealth, Florence was sheltered in many ways by her parents.  Her father educated her at home and opposed the idea of Florence going into nursing.  In fact, Florence later wrote that she felt suffocated and stymied by the wealth of her family as well as the social expectations that this brought.

While Florence had a number of suitors, she felt that marriage would enslave her with domestic responsibilities.  Following the worst of the Crimea War, in 1855 Florence was asked by an old friend -Sydney Herbert- to hire and organize a group of nurses for the war efforts in Crimea.

Upon arrival, the nurses were not allowed to treat the men; they were assigned only cleaning duties.  Once the casualties became so great, the doctors asked Florence and her nurses to assist them.

Florence incorporated the orderliness and cleanliness of what later became famous as the “starched white nursing uniform”, as she was a stickler for discipline and rules.  Upon returning from the war she was seen as a national heroine and was the recipient of many awards and honors, including one from Queen Victoria.

Following the war, Florence continued her work in the discipline of hospital hygiene and clinical standards, even founding the St. Thomas’s Hospital training school for nurses in London.

“I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”                                   – Florence Nightingale

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Judy W Bell

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