Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820. Part of a wealth family, Nightingale defied the expectations of the time and pursued what she saw as her God-given calling of nursing. During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses improved the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds. Her writings sparked worldwide health care reform. In 1860 she established St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. She died on August 13, 1910, in London.
Background and Early Life
Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy. She was the younger of two daughters. Nightingale’s affluent British clan belonged to elite social circles. Her mother, Frances Nightingale, hailed from a family of merchants and took pride in socializing with people of prominent standing. Despite her mother’s interests, Florence herself was reportedly awkward in social situations. She preferred to avoid being the center of attention whenever possible. Strong-willed, she often butted heads with her mother, whom she viewed as overly controlling.
Florence’s father was William Edward Nightingale (having changed his original surname, “Shore”), a wealthy landowner who would be associated with two estates—one at Lea Hurst, Derbyshire, and the other at Embly, Hampshire. Florence was provided with a classical education, including studies in German, French and Italian.
From a very young age, Nightingale was active in philanthropy, ministering to the ill and poor people in the village neighboring her family’s estate. By the time she was a teen, it was clear to her that nursing was her calling. She believed it to be her divine purpose.
When Nightingale approached her parents and told them about her ambitions to become a nurse, they were not pleased. In fact, her parents forbade her to pursue nursing. During the Victorian Era, where English women had almost no property rights, a young lady of Nightingale’s social stature was expected to marry a man of means to ensure her class standing—not take up a job that was viewed as lowly menial labor by the upper social classes.
In 1849, Nightingale refused a marriage proposal from a “suitable” gentleman, Richard Monckton Milnes. She explained her reason for turning him down, saying that while he stimulated her intellectually and romantically, her “moral…active nature…requires satisfaction, and that would not find it in this life.” (One biographer has suggested that the rejection of marriage to Milnes was not in fact an outright refusal.) Determined to pursue her true calling despite her parents’ objections, Nightingale eventually enrolled as a nursing student in 1850 and ’51 at the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany.
In the early 1850s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a nursing job in a Middlesex hospital for ailing governesses. Her performance there so impressed her employer that Nightingale was promoted to superintendent within just a year of being hired. The position proved challenging as Nightingale grappled with a cholera outbreak and unsanitary conditions conducive to the rapid spread of the disease. Nightingale made it her mission to improve hygiene practices, significantly lowering the death rate at the hospital in the process. But the hard work took a toll on her health. She had just barely recovered when the biggest challenge of her nursing career presented itself.
In October of 1853, the Crimean War broke out. The British Empire was at war against the Russian Empire for control of the Ottoman Empire. Thousands of British soldiers were sent to the Black Sea, where supplies quickly dwindled. By 1854, no fewer than 18,000 soldiers had been admitted into military hospitals.
At the time, there were no female nurses stationed at hospitals in the Crimea. After the Battle of Alma, England was in an uproar about the neglect of their ill and injured soldiers, who not only lacked sufficient medical attention due to hospitals being horribly understaffed, but also languished in appallingly unsanitary and inhumane conditions.
In late 1854, Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. Nightingale rose to her calling. She quickly assembled a team of almost three dozen nurses from a variety of religious orders, and sailed with them to the Crimea just a few days later.
Although they had been warned of the horrid conditions there, nothing could have prepared Nightingale and her nurses for what they saw when they arrived at Scutari, the British base hospital in Constantinople. The hospital sat on top of a large cesspool, which contaminated the water and the hospital building itself. Patients lay on in their own excrement on stretchers strewn throughout the hallways. Rodents and bugs scurried past them. The most basic supplies, such as bandages and soap, grew increasingly scarce as the number of ill and wounded steadily increased. Even water needed to be rationed. More soldiers were dying from infectious diseases like typhoid and cholera than from injuries incurred in battle.
The no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set to work. She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling. Nightingale herself spent every waking minute caring for the soldiers. In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient. The soldiers, who were both moved and comforted by her endless supply of compassion, took to calling her “the Lady with the Lamp.” Others simply called her “the Angel of the Crimea.” Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.
In additional to vastly improving the sanitary conditions of the hospital, Nightingale created a number of patient services that contributed to improving the quality of their hospital stay. She instituted the creation of an “invalid’s kitchen” where appealing food for patients with special dietary requirements was cooked. She established a laundry so that patients would have clean linens. She also instituted a classroom and a library, for patients’ intellectual stimulation and entertainment.
Recognition and Appreciation
Based on her observations in the Crimea, Nightingale wrote Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army, an 830-page report analyzing her experience and proposing reforms for other military hospitals operating under poor conditions. The book would spark a total restructuring of the War Office’s administrative department, including the establishment of a Royal Commission for the Health of the Army in 1857.
Nightingale remained at Scutari for a year and a half. She left in the summer of 1856, once the Crimean conflict was resolved, and returned to her childhood home at Lea Hurst. To her surprise she was met with a hero’s welcome, which the humble nurse did her best to avoid. The previous year, Queen Victoria had rewarded Nightingale’s work by presenting her with an engraved brooch that came to be known as the “Nightingale Jewel” and by granting her a prize of $250,000 from the British government.
Nightingale decided to use the money to further her cause. In 1860, she funded the establishment of St. Thomas’ Hospital, and within it, the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. Nightingale became a figure of public admiration. Poems, songs and plays were written and dedicated in the heroine’s honor. Young women aspired to be like her. Eager to follow her example, even women from the wealthy upper classes started enrolling at the training school. Thanks to Nightingale, nursing was no longer frowned upon by the upper classes; it had, in fact, come to be viewed as an honorable vocation.
While at Scutari, Nightingale had contracted “Crimean fever” and would never fully recover. By the time she was 38 years old, she was homebound and bedridden, and would be so for the remainder of her long life. Fiercely determined, and dedicated as ever to improving health care and alleviating patients’ suffering, Nightingale continued her work from her bed.
Residing in Mayfair, she remained an authority and advocate of health care reform, interviewing politicians and welcoming distinguished visitors from her bed. In 1859, she published Notes on Hospitals, which focused on how to properly run civilian hospitals.
Throughout the U.S. Civil War, she was frequently consulted about how to best manage field hospitals. Nightingale also served as an authority on public sanitation issues in India for both the military and civilians, although she had never been to India herself.
Death and Legacy
In August 1910, Florence Nightingale fell ill, but seemed to recover and was reportedly in good spirits. A week later, on the evening of Friday, August 12, 1910, she developed an array of troubling symptoms. She died unexpectedly at 2 pm the following day, Saturday, August 13, at her home in London.
Characteristically, she had expressed the desire that her funeral be a quiet and modest affair, despite the public’s desire to honor Nightingale—who tirelessly devoted her life to preventing disease and ensuring safe and compassionate treatment for the poor and the suffering. Respecting her last wishes, her relatives turned down a national funeral. The “Lady with the Lamp” was laid to rest in her family’s plot at St. Margaret’s Church, East Wellow, in Hampshire, England.
The Florence Nightingale Museum, which sits at the site of the original Nightingale Training School for Nurses, houses more than 2,000 artifacts commemorating the life and career of the “Angel of the Crimea.” To this day, Florence Nightingale is broadly acknowledged and revered as the pioneer of modern nursing.
I am inspired by her actions. Florence Nightingale is a person who is determined to make her dreams come true despite her parent’s words. I am inspired by her story and determination, also her achievement which made me choose her for the profiling article.
Florence Nightigale, as a woman at her time was not seen as a person who should become a nurse. At her time, women were supposed to reproduce and marry. In her case, marry an elite person. Despite her parent’s actions to forbid her on becoming a nurse and pursuing her dreams, she showed them that she can become one of the inspiring people in the world, especially in the nursing world. She made the job as a nurse as a respected job.
The title/heading is already direct with the subject that the writer will write about. The lead also is pretty strong with the word choice. Making the readers interested in knowing who this ‘trailblazing’ person is. The use of 5W+1H is really good. The structure of how the article and the writing is made is really good. Starting about who she is, then ending with her achievements and how she died. It really is an interesting article.
Florence Nightingale has changed the world of nurses and hospitals. She inspired me, when I read about her, and how hard her struggle was until she achieved her dreams to become a nurse. Overall, the article was nicely written and put together, making the readers understand what the writer is trying to convey easily.