Florence Nightingale's place in the history of nursing is assured, although she is also criticised. I thought that Mary Seacole was also safe until I received a manuscript from Emerita Professor Lynn McDonald of the University of Guelph, Ontario in Canada. The manuscript, entitled Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole on nursing and health care, is online now and free to download.
I was previously aware of some doubts about her nursing credentials with many seeing her more as a doctor, or 'doctress'. Certainly she did not found a philosophy of nursing or a school of nursing. But she is iconic to many and I was equally surprised to learn that, if the funds are raised to erect a statue of her in the grounds of St Thomas' Hospital, London, this will be the first statue of a black woman in the UK.
Frankly, I could not resist the controversy that this paper will ignite and I have ensured that leading supporters of Mary Seacole are aware of the paper and invited to respond. I look forward to some robust - but polite - debate in the months ahead.
McDonald L (2013) Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole on nursing and health care Journal of Advanced Nursing DOI:10.1111/jan.12291