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Study Resources :: Women's Study Resources :: Biographies :: The World's Workers: Florence Nightengale

The World's Workers: Florence Nightengale

Florence Nightingale

Everyone who knows London at all knows the Houses of Parliament at the foot of Westminster Bridge. Across the bridge on the Surrey bank, just opposite the great Gothic Houses where legislators talk and govern, stands the new St. Thomas’s Hospital, where sick folk suffer, get cured, or die; where young doctors “walk,” and older ones teach; where experienced nurses tend the sick, and where probationers are trained.

Let us go over the crowded bridge, through the long corridors of the hospital, and enter a large room, where tables are neatly laid for a numerous company, and there look at a statuette under a glass shade on a pedestal. There she stands, a ministering woman. Her dress is the simple garb of common life, as it was in the days of the Crimean War, with no separating badge to mark her off from her fellow–beings. In one hand she holds a nurse’s night–lamp, with the other she shades the light from the eyes of the sick faces she is watching. You do not see their faces, but you know that she sees them; on every line of hers you read how carefully and wisely, and with what clear knowledge and gentle womanliness she is pondering what she sees.

It is a statuette of Florence Nightingale. It stands in the dining–room of the Nightingale Home, St. Thomas’s Hospital; where those who have eyes and hearts and brains may study it, and learn the lessons taught with such quiet, unobtrusive force.

That Nightingale Home is part of the British nation’s tribute of thanks to the noble woman who found the death–rate in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari 6o percent., and left it a fraction over 1.

The Nightingale Home is established for the purpose of training nurses. Two classes of women are admitted: those who are termed “nurse probationers;” and gentlewomen, who are “special probationers.”

A very distinguished lady nurse who has been in half the hospitals in Europe once said to me, “To Florence Nightingale, who was my own first teacher and inspirer, we owe the wonderful change that has taken place in the public mind with, regard to nursing. When I first began my hospital training, hospital nursing was thought to be a profession which no decent woman of any rank could follow. If a servant turned nurse, it was supposed she did so because she had lost her character. We have changed all that now. Modern nursing owes its first impulse to Florence Nightingale.”

I don’t suppose that any of my young readers have ever seen a hospital nurse of the now nearly extinct Gamp type; but I have. I have seen her, coarse–faced, thick of limb, heavy of foot, brutal in speech, crawling up and down the stairs or about the wards in dresses and aprons that made me feel (although quite well and with a good healthy appetite) as if I would rather not have my dinner just then. These were the old–fashioned “Sairey Gamps.” But Florence Nightingale has been too strong for even the immortal “Sairey.” Go now through the corridors and wards of a modern hospital; every nurse you meet will be neat and trim with spotless dress and cap and apron, moving quietly but quickly to and fro, doing her work with kindness and intelligence.

The Nightingale Home itself is charming; and many, were they to see the little white beds and pleasant rooms of the probationers, or were to stand at the windows of the wards, overlooking the busy Thames and the opposite Houses of Parliament, or to meet the probationers trooping down to dinner, some in their soft grey alpacas, which tell they have just come from the lecture–room, and others, in print gowns and white aprons, from the wards, would desire to become “Nightingales.” But this is no easy matter: no one is admitted before twenty–three years of age; the preliminary training is very thorough, and they have to work very hard; most of them find it trying at first; indeed, every woman must be sure of her vocation before she attempts the work, interesting as it is to those who care for it in the highest spirit.

It was in 1820, the year George the Third’s long life quite faded out, that the younger of the two daughters of William Shore Nightingale was born at Florence, and named after that lovely city.

Mr. Nightingale, of Embley Park, Hampshire, and the Lea Hurst, Derbyshire, was a very wealthy land–owner. He was of the Shores of Derbyshire, but inherited the fortune with the name of Nightingale through his mother. Lea Hurst, where Miss Nightingale passed the summer months of each year, is situated in the Matlock district, among bold masses of limestone rock, gray walls, full of fossils, covered with moss and lichen, with the changeful river Derwent now dashing over its stony bed, now quietly winding between little dales with clefts and dingles. Those who have travelled by the Derby and Buxton railway will remember the narrow valleys, the mountain streams, the wide spans of high moorland, the distant ranges of hills beyond hills of the district. Lea Hurst, a gable–ended house, standing among its own woods and commanding wonderful views of the Peak country, is about two miles from Cromford station.

At Lea Hurst much of Florence Nightingale’s childhood was passed. There she early developed that intense love for every living suffering thing that grew with her growth, until it became the master–passion of her life.

A few years since a true story of her as a little girl appeared in Little Folks Magazine, and it is so charmingly told, and gives so distinctly the key–note of her character, that I repeat it here in full, as to curtail it would be to spoil it:—

Some years ago, when the celebrated Florence Nightingale was a little girl, living at her father’s home, a large, old Elizabethan house with great woods about it, in Hampshire, there was one thing that struck everybody who knew her. It was that she seemed to be always thinking what she could do to please or help any one who needed either help or comfort. She was very fond, too, of animals, and she was so gentle in her way, that even the shyest of them would come quite close to her, and pick up whatever she flung down for them to eat. There was, in the garden behind the house, a long walk with trees on each side, the abode of many squirrels; and when Florence came down the walk, dropping nuts as she went along, the squirrels would run down the trunks of their trees, and hardly waiting until she passed by, would pick up the prize, and dart away with their little bushy tails curled over their backs, and their black eyes looking about as if terrified at the least noise, though they did not seem to be afraid of Florence. The reason was that she loved them, and never did anything to startle or trouble them.

Then there was an old grey pony, named Peggy, past work, living in a paddock, with nothing to do all day long but to amuse herself. Whenever Florence appeared at the gate, Peggy would come trotting up and put her nose into the dress pocket of her little mistress, and pick it of the apple or the roll of bread that she knew she would always find there, for this was a trick Florence had taught the pony. Florence was fond of riding, and her father’s old friend (the clergyman of the parish) used often to come and take her for a ride with him when he went to the farm cottages at a distance. He was a good man, and very kind to the poor. As he had studied medicine when a young man, he was able to tell the people what would do them good when they were ill, or had met with an accident. Little Florence took great delight in helping to nurse those who were ill, and whenever she went on these long rides, she had a small basket fastened to her saddle, filled with something nice, which she had saved from her breakfast or dinner, or carried for her mother, who was very good to the poor. She thus learned to be useful as well as kind–hearted.

Now, there lived in one of two or three solitary cottages in the wood, an old shepherd of her father’s, named Roger, who had a favourite sheepdog called “Cap.” Roger had neither wife nor child, and Cap lived with him, and kept him company at nights, after he had penned his flock. Cap was a very sensible dog; indeed, people used to say he “could do everything but speak.” He kept the sheep in wonderfully good order, and thus saved his master a great deal of trouble. One day as Florence and her old friend were out for a ride, they came to a field, where they found the shepherd giving his sheep their night feed; but he was without the dog, and the sheep knew it, for they were scampering about in all directions. Florence and her friend noticed that the old shepherd looked very sad this evening, and they stopped to ask what was the matter, and what had become of his dog.

“Oh,” said Roger, “Cap will never be of any more use to me; I’ll have to hang him, poor fellow, as soon as I go home to night.”

“Hang him!” said Florence. “Oh, Roger, how wicked of you! What has dear old Cap done?”

“He has done nothing,” replied Roger; “but he will never be of any more use to me, and I cannot afford to keep him for nothing; one of the mischievous schoolboys throwed a stone at him yesterday, and broke one of his legs.” And the old shepherd’s eyes filled with tears, which he wiped away with his shirtsleeve; then he drove his spade deep in the ground to hide what he felt, for he did not like to be seen crying.

“Poor Cap!” he sighed, “he was as knowing as a human being almost.”

“But are you sure his leg is broken?” asked Florence.

“Oh, yes, miss, it is broken safe enough; he has not put his foot to the ground since.”

Florence and her friend rode on without saying anything more to Roger.

“We will go and see poor Cap,” said the vicar. “I don’t believe the leg is really broken. It would take a big stone, and a hard blow, to break the leg of a great dog like Cap.”

“Oh, if you could but cure him, how glad Roger would be!” replied Florence.

They soon reached the shepherd’s cottage; but the door was fastened, and when they moved the latch such a furious barking was heard, that they drew back startled. However, a little boy came out of the next cottage, and asked if they wanted to go in, as Roger had left the key with his mother. So the key was got, and the door opened, and there on the bare brick floor lay the dog, his hair dishevelled, and his eyes sparkling with anger at the intruders. But when he saw the little boy he grew pacified. Dogs always know their friends. And when he looked at Florence, and heard her call him “poor Cap,” he began to wag his short tail, and then crept from under the table, and lay down at her feet. She took hold of one of his paws, patted his old rough head, and talked to him, whilst her friend examined the injured leg. It was dreadfully swollen, and hurt him very much to have it examined; but the dog knew it was meant kindly, and though he moaned and winced with pain, he licked the hands that were hurting him.

“It’s only a bad bruise; no bones are broken,” said her old friend; “rest is all Cap needs; he will soon be well again.”

“I am so glad,” exclaimed Florence; “but can we do nothing for him? he seems in such pain.”

“There is one thing that would ease the pain, and heal the leg all the sooner, and that is plenty of hot water to foment the part.”

“Well then,” said Florence, “if that will do him good, I will foment poor Cap’s leg.”

“I fear you will only scald yourself,” replied he.

But Florence had in the meantime struck a light with the tinder–box, and lighted the fire, which was already laid. She then set off to the other cottage to get something to bathe the leg with. She found an old flannel petticoat hanging up to dry, and this she carried off, and tore up into slips, which she wrung out in warm water, and laid them tenderly on Cap’s swollen leg. It was not long before the poor dog felt the benefit of the application, and he looked grateful, wagging his little stump of a tail in thanks. On their way home they met the shepherd coming slowly along, with a piece of rope in his hand.

“Oh, Roger,” cried Florence, “you are not to hang poor old Cap; his leg is not broken at all.”

“No, he will serve you yet,” said the vicar.

“Well, I be main glad to hear it,” said the shepherd, “and many thanks to you for going to see him.”

On the next morning Florence was up early, and the first thing she did was to take two flannel petticoats to give the poor woman whose petticoat she had torn up to bathe Cap. Then she went to the dog, and was delighted to find the swelling of his leg much less. She bathed it again, and Cap was as grateful as before.

Two or three days afterwards Florence and her friend were riding together, when they came up to Roger and his sheep. This time Cap was watching the sheep, though he was lying quite still, and pretending to be asleep. When he heard the voice of Florence speaking to his master, who was portioning out the usual feed, his tail wagged and his eyes sparkled, but he did not get up, for he was on duty. The shepherd stopped his work, and as he glanced at the dog with a merry laugh, said, “Do look at the dog, miss; he be so pleased to hear your voice.” Cap’s tail went faster and faster. “I be glad,” continued the old man, “I did not hang him. I be greatly obliged to you, miss, and the vicar, for what you did. But for you I would have hanged the best dog I ever had in my life.”

Florence Nightingale always retained her belief in animals. Many years afterwards, when her name was known all over the world, she wrote: “A small pet animal is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially. An invalid, in giving an account of his nursing by a nurse and a dog, infinitely preferred that of the dog. “Above all,” he said, “it did not talk.” Even Florence Nightingale’s maimed dolls were tenderly nursed and bandaged.

Mr. Nightingale was a man singularly in advance of his time as regards the training of girls. The “higher education of women,” was unknown to the general public in those days, but not to Mr. Nightingale. His daughter was taught mathematics, and studied the classics, history, and modern languages, under her father’s guidance. These last were afterwards of the greatest use to her in the Crimea. But she was no “learned lady;” only a well–educated Englishwoman, all round. She was an excellent musician, and skillful in work with the needle; and the delicate trained touch thus acquired stood her in good stead, for the soldiers used to say that a wound which Miss Nightingale dressed “was sure to get well.”

She felt a strong craving for work, more even than the schools and cottages, the care of the young, the sick, and the aged (in which she followed her mother’s example) could afford her at her father’s home.

Mrs. Browning tells us to

“Get leave to work
In this world; ‘tis the best you get at all.”

Florence Nightingale not only got leave to work, but did so, very quietly but very persistently. And so she became a pioneer for less courageous souls, and won for them also “leave to work.” Taught by her father, she soon learned to distinguish between what was really good work and which mere make–believe. She had many opportunities even as a child of seeing really fine, artistic work both in science and art. She set up a high standard, and was never satisfied with anything short of the best, either in herself or others. It is a grand thing to know good work when you see it.

The love of work, however, with Florence Nightingale always went hand in hand with that love for every living thing in God’s world, which was born with her, and which was never crowded out by all this education. As she grew up she more and more felt that helpfulness was the first law of her being; but her reason and intellect having been so carefully trained, she was thoroughly persuaded that in order to help effectually, one must know thoroughly both the cause of suffering and its radical cure.

The study of nursing had an irresistible attraction for her. Few people in England at that time valued nursing. Florence Nightingale was convinced that indifference arose from the all but absolute ignorance of what nursing should be, and she set herself to acquire the necessary knowledge to enable her to carry it out in the very best and most scientific way. She never lost an opportunity of visiting a hospital either at home or abroad. She gave up the life of so–called “pleasure” which it was then considered a young woman of her position ought to lead, and after having very carefully examined innumerable nursing institutions at home and abroad, at length went to the well–known Pastor Fliedner’s Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth, where she remained for several months.

When “Sweet Agnes Jones,” who was at one time a “Nightingale” probationer at St. Thomas’s, was learning to nurse at Kaiserswerth several years later, she found that Florence Nightingale was tenderly remembered there, not only for her wonderful skill, but for the earnestness with which she had tried to win the souls of her sick people to Christ.

After leaving Kaiserswerth, Miss Nightingale was for a while with the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris, so anxious was she to see how nursing was carried on under many different systems. It was during 1851, the year of the first Great Exhibition that she was thus fitting herself practically for the great task that lay before her in the not very distant future.

On her return to England, Miss Nightingale found a patient that required all her time and help of every kind. This patient was none other than the Sanatorium in Harley Street for gentlewomen of limited means. Into the saving of this valuable institution Miss Nightingale threw all her energy, and for two or three years, hidden away from the outside world, she was working day and night for her poor suffering ladies, until at length she was able to feel that the. Sanatorium was not only in good health but on the high road to permanent success.

Florence Nightingale’s own health, however, gave way under the long–continued strain of anxiety and fatigue; she was obliged to leave the invalids for whom she had done so much, and go home for the rest and change she so sorely needed.

Now, while Miss Nightingale had been quietly getting “Harley Street “into working order, the gravest and most terrible changes had taken place in the affairs of the nation, and not only in those of England, but in those of the whole of Europe.

In 1851, when the first Great Exhibition was opened, all was peace—the long peace of forty years was still unbroken, people said it never was to be broken again, and that wars and rumours of wars had come to an end. So much for human foreknowledge. By the autumn of 1854, the horrors of the Crimean war had reached their climax. The Times was full, day by day, of the most thrilling and appalling descriptions of the hideous sufferings of our brave men, sufferings caused quite as much by the utter breakdown of the sanitary administration as by even the deadly battles and trenchwork; while every post was bringing agonising private letters appealing for help.

Men were wounded in the Crimea, the hospitals were far off at Scutari, the wide and stormy Black Sea had to be crossed to reach them; the stores of food, clothing, and medicine that might have saved many a life were at Varna, or lost in the Black Prince; the state of the great Barrack Hospital at Scutari was indescribably horrible; everybody was frantic to rush to the relief; no one knew what best to do; public feeling was at fever–heat. How could it be otherwise when William Howard Russell, the Times correspondent, was constantly writing such true but heartrending letters as this?—

“The commonest accessories of a hospital are wanting; there is not the least attention paid to decency or cleanliness; the stench is appalling; the fœtid air can barely struggle out to taint the atmosphere, save through the chinks in the walls and roofs; and, for all I can observe, these men die without the least effort being made to save them. There they lie, just as they were let gently down on the ground by the poor fellows, their comrades, who brought them on their backs from the camp with the greatest tenderness, but who are not allowed to remain with them.

The sick appear to be tended by the sick, and the dying by the dying.”

Miss Nightingale, who was then recovering from her Harley Street nursing, deeply felt the intensity of the crisis that was moving the whole nation; but, whereas the panic had driven most of the kind people who were so eager to help the army nearly “off their heads,” it only made hers the cooler and clearer. She wrote offering her services to Mr. Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert, the Minister for War, who, together with his wife, had long known her, and had recognised her wonderful organising faculties, and her great practical experience.

It was on the 15th of October that she wrote to Mr. Herbert. On the very same day the Minister had written to her. Their letters crossed. Mr. Herbert, who had himself given much attention to military hospitals, laid before Miss Nightingale, in his now historical letter, a plan for nursing the sick and wounded at Scutari.

“There is, as far as I know,” he wrote, “only one person in England capable of organising and directing such a plan, and I have been several times on the point of asking you if you would be disposed to make the attempt. That it will be difficult to form a corps of nurses, no one knows better than yourself.”

After specifying the difficulty in finding not only good nurses, but good nurses who would be willing to submit to authority, he goes on, “I have this simple question to put to you. Could you go out yourself and take charge of everything? It is, of course, understood that you will have absolute authority over all the nurses, unlimited power to draw on the Government for all you judge necessary to the success of your mission; and I think I may assure you of the cooperation of the medical staff. Your personal qualities, your knowledge, and your authority in administrative affairs all fit you for this position.”

Miss Nightingale at once concurred in Mr. Herbert’s proposal. The materials for a staff of good nurses did not exist, and she had to put up with the best that could be gathered on such short notice.

On the 21st, a letter by Mr. Herbert from the War Office told the world that “Miss Nightingale, accompanied by thirty–four nurses, will leave this evening. Miss Nightingale, who has, I believe, greater practical experience of hospital administration and treatment than any other lady in this country, has, with a self–devotion for which I have no words to express my gratitude, undertaken this noble but arduous work.”

A couple of days later there was a paragraph in the Times from Miss Nightingale herself, referring to the gifts for the soldiers that had been offered so lavishly: “Miss Nightingale neither invites nor refuses the generous offers. Her banking account is open at Messrs. Coutts’.” On the 30th of October, the Times republished from the Examiner a letter, headed “Who is Miss Nightingale?” and signed “One who has known her.” Then was made known to the British public for the first

time who the woman that had gone to the aid of the sick and wounded really was; then it was shown that she was no hospital matron, but a young and singularly graceful and accomplished gentlewoman of wealth and position, who had, not in a moment of national enthusiasm, but as the set purpose of her life from girlhood up, devoted herself to the studying of God’s great and good laws of health, and to trying to apply them to the help of her suffering fellow–creatures.

From that 30th of October, 1854, the heroine of the Crimean war was Florence Nightingale, and the heroine of that war will she be while the English tongue exists, and English history is read. The national enthusiasm for her was at once intense; and it grew deeper and more intense as week by week revealed her powers. “Less talent and energy of character, less singleness of purpose and devotion, could never have combined the heterogeneous elements which she gathered together in one common work and labour of love.”

I met, the other day, a lady who saw something of Miss Nightingale just before she went out to the East. This lady tells me that Miss Nightingale was then most graceful in appearance, tall and slight, very quiet and still. At first sight her earnest face struck one as cold; but when she began to speak she grew very animated, and her dark eyes shone out with a peculiarly star–like brightness.

This was the woman whose starting for the East was at once felt to be the beginning of better things; but so prejudiced were many good English people against women–nurses for soldiers that Mrs. Jameson, writing at the time, calls the scheme “an undertaking wholly new to our English customs, much at variance with the usual education given to women in this country.” She, sensible woman, one in advance of her day, hoped it would succeed, but hoped rather faintly. “If it succeeds,” she goes on, “it will be the true, the lasting glory of Florence Nightingale, and her band of devoted assistants, that they have broken down a ‘Chinese wall of prejudices,’ religious, social, professional, and have established a precedent which will, indeed, multiply the good to all time.”

The little band of nurses crossed the channel to Boulogne, where they found the fisherwomen eager for the honour of carrying their luggage to the railway. This display, however, seemed to Miss Nightingale to be so out of keeping with the deep gravity of her mission, that, at her wish, it was not repeated at any of the stopping–places during the route. The Vectis took the nurses across the Mediterranean, and a terribly rough passage they had. On Nov. 5th, the very day on which the battle of Inkermann was fought, the ship arrived at Scutari.

Miss Nightingale and her nurses landed during the afternoon, and it was remarked at the time that their neat black dresses formed a strong contrast to those of the usual hospital attendants. A large number of men, wounded at Balaclava, had been landed the day before.

The great Barrack Hospital at Scutari, which had been lent to the British by the Turkish Government, was an enormous quadrangular building, a quarter of a mile each way, with square towers at each angle. It stood on the Asiatic shore a hundred feet above the Bosphorus. Another large hospital stood near; the whole, at times, containing as many as four thousand men. The whole were placed under Miss Nightingale’s care. The nurses were lodged in the south–east tower.

The extent of corridors in the great hospital, storey above storey, in which the sick and wounded were at first laid on wretched palliasses as close together as they could be placed, made her inspection and care most difficult. There were two rows of mattresses in the corridors, where two persons could hardly pass abreast between foot and foot. The mortality, when the Times first took up the cause of the sick and wounded, was enormous.

In the Crimea itself there was not half the mortality in the tents, horrible as were the sufferings and privations of the men there.

“The whole of yesterday,” writes one of the nurses a few days after they had arrived, “one could only forget one’s own existence, for it was spent, first in sewing the men’s mattresses together, and then in washing them and assisting the surgeons, when we could, in dressing their ghastly wounds after their five days’ confinement on board ship, during which space their wounds had not been dressed. Hundreds of men with fever, dysentery, and cholera (the wounded were the smaller portion) filled the wards in succession, from the overcrowded transports.”

Miss Nightingale’s position was a most difficult one. Everything was in disorder, and every official was extremely jealous of interference. Miss Nightingale, however, at once impressed upon her staff the duty of obeying the doctors’ orders, as she did herself. An invalid’s kitchen was established immediately by her to supplement the rations. A laundry was added; the nursing itself was, however, the most difficult and important part of the work.

But it would take far too much space to give all the details of that kind but strict administration which brought comparative comfort and a low death–rate into the Scutari hospitals. During a year and a half, the labour of getting the hospitals into working order was enormous, but before the Peace arrived they were models of what such institutions may be.

Speaking of Miss Nightingale in the Hospital at Scutari, the Times correspondent wrote: “Wherever there is disease in its most dangerous form, and the hand of the spoiler distressingly nigh, there is that incomparable woman sure to be seen; her benignant presence is an influence for good comfort even amid the struggles of expiring nature. She is a ‘ministering angel,’ without any exaggeration, in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night, and silence and darkness have settled down upon these miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed, alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds. With the heart of a true woman and the manner of a lady, accomplished and refined beyond most of her sex, she combines a surprising calmness of judgment and promptitude and decision of character. The popular instinct was not mistaken, which, when she set out from England on her mission of mercy, hailed her as a heroine; I trust that she may not earn her title to a higher, though sadder, appellation. No one who has observed her fragile figure and delicate health can avoid misgivings lest these should fail.”

Public feeling bubbled up into poetry. Even doggrel ballads sung about the streets praised

“The Nightingale of the East,

For her heart it means good.”

Among many others, the American poet, Longfellow, wrote the charming poem, The Lady with the Lamp, so beautifully illustrated by the statuette of Florence Nightingale at St. Thomas’s Hospital, suggested by the well–known incident recorded in a soldier’s letter:

“She would speak to one and another, and nod and smile to many more; but she could not do it to all, you know, for we lay there by hundreds; but we could kiss her shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on our pillows again content.”

“Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
“And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.
“On England’s annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
A light its rays shall cast
From portals of the past.
“A lady with a lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Heroic womanhood.”

In the following spring Miss Nightingale crossed the Black Sea and visited Balaclava, where the state of the hospitals in huts was extremely distressing, as help of all kinds was even more difficult to obtain there than at Scutari. Here Miss Nightingale spent some weeks, until she was prostrated by a severe attack of the Crimean fever, of which she very nearly died.

The characteristic little extract following will show at once her power of observation, and how readily she turns every scrap of personal experience to advantage for other sufferers:

“I have seen in fevers (and felt when I was a fever patient myself in the Crimea) the most acute suffering produced from the patient (in a hut) not being able to see out of window, and the knots in the wood being the only view. I shall never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of bright–coloured flowers. I remember (in my own case) a nosegay of wild flowers being sent me, and from that moment recovery becoming more rapid.”

But at length the Crimean War came to an end. The nation was prepared to welcome its heroine with the most passionate enthusiasm. But Florence Nightingale quietly slipped back unnoticed to her Derbyshire home, without its being known that she had passed through London.

Worn out with ill–health and fatigue, and naturally shrinking from publicity, the public at large has scarcely ever seen her; she has been a great invalid ever since the war, and for many years hardly ever left her house.

But her energy has been untiring. She was one of the founders of the Red Cross Society for the relief of the sick and wounded in war. When the Civil War broke out in America she was consulted as to all the details of the military nursing there. “Her name is almost more known amongst us than even in Europe,” wrote an American. During the Franco–German War she gave advice for the chief hospitals under the Crown Princess, the Princess Alice, and others. The Children’s Hospital at Lisbon was erected from her plans. The hospitals in Australia, India, and other places, have received her care. A large proportion of the plans for the building and organisation of the hospitals erected during the last twenty–five years in England have passed through her hands.

The Queen, who had followed her work with constant interest, presented her with a beautiful and costly decoration. The nation gave £50,000 to found the Nightingale Home.

In this home Miss Nightingale takes the deepest interest, constantly having the nurses and sisters to visit her, and learning from them the most minute details of its working. Great is evidently her rejoicing when one of her “Nightingales” proves to be a really fine nurse, such a one, for instance, as Agnes Jones, the reformer of workhouse nursing.

When Agnes Jones died in 1868, Miss Nightingale broke through her retirement in an article in a monthly magazine, called “Una and her Lions,” a sketch, indeed, of her friend’s taming the paupers, but far more is it a portrait of Florence Nightingale by herself. This article now forms the introduction of the well–known memorials of Agnes Jones. It is a noble tribute from one great worker to another. It throws so much light on the true character of Florence Nightingale herself; it brings you closely into contact with her own heart and brain, that you feel as you read it she must be writing her own experience. A true portrait of herself by herself comes out when we look at that record as a whole. You see how Florence Nightingale herself had to fight, first against the people who thought nursing as a profession unfit for decent women, then with those who admitted it might be followed by “the lower middle–class,” and lastly with those who considered it a natural gift, for which no training at all was necessary.

Just notice the strong terseness, the business–like pointedness, as well as the beautiful earnestness, both religious and artistic, of the following. After telling us of the wonders wrought by Una on her paupers, more hard to tame than lions, she goes on: “In less than three years she did this. And how did she do all this?”

“Agnes had trained herself to the utmost; she was always training herself; for nursing is no holiday work. Nursing is an art; and, if it is to be made an art, requires as exclusive a devotion, as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or cold marble compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s Spirit? Nursing is one of the Fine Arts; I had almost said, ‘the finest of the Fine Arts.’”

“Fid–fadding” was one of the besetting sins of most women in the days when Florence Nightingale was young. It was certainly one of the sins most abhorrent to her energetic nature. “How can any undervalue business habits? As if anything could be done without them!” she exclaims.

This was the high position Florence Nightingale conquered for her fellow–women. Hundreds have occupied, and are still occupying, the ground she won for them. “And I give a quarter of a century’s European experience,” she goes on, “when I say that the happiest people, the fondest of their occupation, the most thankful for their lives, are in my opinion those engaged in sick nursing.”

I will quote no more, but if you really want to know Florence Nightingale, read the Introduction to “Agnes Jones,” which shows that Miss Nightingale has as great a power of administrating pen and ink as hospitals. Her invalid life since the war has been full of business; the amount of work of all kinds, at home and abroad, she has done since the war is enormous. “Notes on Nursing,” an invaluable book which the Medical Times declared no one else could have written, has entirely conquered the bad old ideas, and has shown what an art and science nursing can become; better still, it has “vindicated the ways of God with man.” “Notes on Hospitals,” less well–known to the general public, contains a perfect mine of information, the gist of which she has reduced, in a most marvellous appendix, under five simple headings. A few remarks from the preface of the third edition will show with what patient care she had thought out the subject.

“It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital, that it should do the sick no harm. It is quite necessary, nevertheless, to lay down such a principle, because the actual mortality in hospitals, especially in those of large crowded cities, is very much higher than any calculation founded on the mortality of the same class of diseases among patients treated out of hospital would lead us to expect. The knowledge of this fact first induced me to examine into the influence exercised by hospital construction on the duration and death–rate of cases received into the wards .”

Officials in high places, ever since the Crimean War, have sent Miss Nightingale piles, mountains, one might say, of Reports and Blue Books for her advice. She seems to be able to condense any number of them into half–a–dozen telling sentences for instance, the mortality in Indian regiments during times of peace became exceedingly alarming. Reports on the subject were poured in upon her.

“The men are simply treated like Strasbourg geese,” she said in effect. “They eat, sleep, frizzle in the sun, and eat and sleep again. Treat them reasonably, and they will be well.”

She has written much valuable advice on “How to live and not die in India.”

Children’s Hospitals have also engaged much of her attention. You cannot open one of her books at hazard without being struck with some shrewd remark that tells how far–reaching is her observation; as in this, on the playgrounds of Children’s Hospitals: “A large garden–ground, laid out in sward and grass hillocks, and such ways as children like (not too pretty, or the children will be scolded for spoiling it) must be provided.”

Here, I am sorry to find, my space comes to an end, but not, I hope, before I have been able to sketch in some slight way what great results will assuredly follow when Faith and Science are united in one person. In the days which we may hope are now dawning, when these gifts will be united, not in an individual here and there, but in a large portion of our race, there will doubtless be many a devoted woman whose knowledge may equal her practical skill and her love for God and her fellow–creatures, who will understand, even more thoroughly than most of us now can (most of us being still so ignorant), how deep a debt of gratitude is due to her who first opened for women so many paths of duty, and raised nursing from a menial employment to the dignity of an “Art of Charity”—to England’s first great nurse, the wise, beloved, and far–seeing heroine of the Crimean War, the Lady of the Lamp, Florence Nightingale.


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