Born 12 May 1820, Died 13 August 1910 and Buried 20 August 1910 in St Margaret of Antioch, Wellow.
Her family were very wealthy and her Father personally oversaw her education. She was fluent in English, French, German and Italian and knew both Latin and classical Greek.
She chose to go into nursing at 16 (1837) after being ‘called on by God’ to do so, despite her parents’ objections because nursing was generally associated with low social status and alcoholism, amongst other things.
She started her learning journey in 1850 and only 3 years later, became the superintendent of a London based Women’s Hospital.
She refused to get married and turned down multiple proposals. One was even her own cousin, Henry Nicholson!
She gained her ‘Victorian Celebrity Status’ during the Crimean war, which saw Britain and France clash with Russia in the 1850’s. Her friendship with UK War Secretary Sidney Herbert lead to him giving her permission to round up 38 volunteer nurses.
Cleanliness wasn’t a very strong suit in the beginning. 42.7% of the facility’s admitted patients died in February 1855. It was Nightingale who concluded that there was a link between the poor sanitation and high mortality rate. It was then her who implemented strict hygiene rules; the mortality rate was down to 2% by June.
Her nickname was ‘Lady with the Lamp’. That winter, the London Times reported, ‘She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these Hospitals’. Their article also stated that she’d often be seen, alone, checking up on the wounded with a little lamp in her hand, which led her to be known internationally by this nickname.
She used to write letters home on behalf of the dead or wounded soldiers.
She helped to popularise the pie chart. Even though the first was drawn 19 years prior to her birth, more than 50 years later, she adopted and promoted it through her notes.
Queen Victoria was a huge fan. She rewarded Nightingale’s service with a special brooch as a thank you, believed her to be an excellent example to women and they remained in contact for decades afterwards.
She worked with the British government to change the sanitation laws. Long after the war ended, she pushed to get drainage systems in place for buildings. By 1935, results showed; Britain’s life expectancy increased by 20 years.
She wrote a significant book in 1859; ‘Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is Not’.
America’s ‘first’ trained nurse, Linda Richards (1841-1930) was educated by Nightingale herself when attending London’s Nightingale School of Nursing; founded in 1860 at St Thomas’s Hospital.
In 1907, she was the first woman to be induced into the 1902 established order of merit.
Her birthday, May 12th, has been celebrated annually as International Nurses Day since 1974.
You can hear her voice on YouTube! She made a brief recording when she had a meeting with one of Thomas Edison’s representatives on July 30th 1890.