The historian championing this figureMy name is Deanna Lyncook, I am a History PhD student at Queen Mary's University, London. I research the British colonial education system in the Caribbean and the experiences of children in migrating to Britain during their schooling years. I also host a Black History podcast called 'The History Hotline'. Mary Seacole is a pioneering figure in the field of nursing. She gave her life to helping others, even when she was turned away. She was extremely courageous, hard working and brave, healing soldiers on the frontlines of battle.
Mary Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman who set up- the ‘British Hotel’ behind the front lines of the Crimean War.
She was born in 1805 in Jamaica.
In 1850, Mary Seacole nursed the sick during a cholera epidemic in Jamaica and Panama. It is estimated to have killed as many as 40,000 people in Jamaica, which was around 10% of the island’s population in 1850. After spending time in Panama, Seacole returned to Kingston in 1853.
In 1854, British-Jamaican Mary Seacole travelled from her native Jamaica to Britain to volunteer as a nurse during the Crimean War. She was trained by her Mother in Jamaica to administer herbal remedies and treat tropical diseases.
Despite being rejected by the war office and Florence Nightingale at a hospital in Scutari, she headed for the front line where she healed hundreds of soldiers during the battle.
The British hotel was a type of hospital where Mary Seacole nursed many soldiers and officers back to health through the use of herbal remedies during the war. She was known to the soldiers as ‘Mother Seacole’ as she was their mother away from home.
She gave her life to the service of others, despite being deterred by those who felt she was unable to carry out service.
What was the time period like?:
Mary Seacole lived and worked in the Victorian era. She was born and raised in Jamaica, at that time Jamaica was under the control of the British. Mary’s father was a Scottish soldier and her Mother was a famous Jamaican healer.
Medicine was not as advanced as it was today and so many people caught diseases and illnesses, that are easy to treat today but were not then. Mary’s experience learning about tropical medicine as well as good hygiene from her Mother, helped her to treat people across the Caribbean and Europe.
What influence have they had on Modern Day UK?:
Today Mary Seacole is celebrated as a pioneering figure in nursing. She is the first named Black woman to have a stature created of them in Britain. There is a bronze statue of her at St. Thomas’ hospital in London, it was unveiled in 2016.
The History Hotline Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5DTTJKNJTemOn4gAc0Yxdr?si=6f97ed066112470b
BBC Cartoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZDfibPtBlI