Mary Seacole: Florence Nightingale - without the wealth and publicity. - page 2

I was reading up on Florence Nightingale and the history of nursing. It seems to me that Mary Seacole is a better role model for modern nursing. She pushed the limits of her time without the... Read More

  1. by   Tweety
    Quote from ZASHAGALKA
    But this is exactly my point. Of course. But, why is that?

    Of course FN is the one people remember because she is the only one that is put high on a pedastool. And we do that.

    My POINT is that she doesn't deserve that pedastool. Her vision of nursing is completely out of step with modern nursing.

    And oh, I know! She was a product of her times. I've heard that apology time and time again. THAT is why I point to Mary Seacole. She was a product of the SAME times and yet, she didn't concede her life, or her role as nurse, to those times. In my mind's eye, and unlike FN, that makes her a true visionary.

    Have you ever read the FN oath? I didn't take that oath, btw. But, let me paraphrase it for you: I promise to be completely subjugated to the doctors and will try my moral best to serve them unquestionably and unerringly.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.


    Thanks for you clarification. I was having trouble with your "role model" concept, as well as your disregard for some of her pioneering ideas in recordkeeping/research and proving that nurses indeed save lives.....not just doctors.

    I agree that there are other nurse leaders, and indeed some more worthy than her. Isn't that always the case, that the lay people day to day, without a name for themselves are the real everyday heros in our life and history, long forgotten? Wether you call it "visonary" or not is your choice. Whether you choose to ignore her contributions in light of what you call subservient nature, that's your choice. When reviewing history the point is not that she is or isn't "in step with modern nursing" in my opinoin, she's still worthy to be acknowledged. Hippocrites is out of step with modern medicine but 100's of years later we still know who he is.


    Again, I don't brudge her being a product of her times any more than I begrudge my mother for her attitude that my father is "the head of the household", that she took his name and occasionally will sign something Mrs. Dad's Name.

    I didn't take that oath either. We took some ANA pledge I think, I can't remember, but it definately wasn't FN's.
    Last edit by Tweety on Oct 11, '06
  2. by   RGN1
    Here in the UK Mary Seacole has "risen" in the ranks and her contribution to the formation of the nursing profession is taught to our school children alongside Florence Nightingale. Sad to say the main reason she was not talked of much before was purely a matter of race. Those "barriers" have been lifted over the years, thank goodness. There is now a statue of her in London as well as FN & that has been too long in coming in my opinion but better late than never!

    I don't think they are exactly classed as role models here by nurses today but we do acknowledge their place in history in creating nursing as a job. Of course they came form a bygone age & that should be considered but they did care & they did make a difference.
  3. by   pickledpepperRN
    A tribute to a fellow PTSD war surviver by the son, brother, and husband of nurses - http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/

    She founded the first school of nursing - http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/school.htm

    She did not write the "Nightingale Pledge". It was composed by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and was first used by its graduating class in the spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians.
    ~~~
    [FONT="Arial"]
    I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.
    I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.
    I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.
    With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.
    http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/pledge.htm
  4. by   Tweety
    Quote from RGN1
    Here in the UK Mary Seacole has "risen" in the ranks and her contribution to the formation of the nursing profession is taught to our school children alongside Florence Nightingale. Sad to say the main reason she was not talked of much before was purely a matter of race. Those "barriers" have been lifted over the years, thank goodness. There is now a statue of her in London as well as FN & that has been too long in coming in my opinion but better late than never!

    I don't think they are exactly classed as role models here by nurses today but we do acknowledge their place in history in creating nursing as a job. Of course they came form a bygone age & that should be considered but they did care & they did make a difference.

    In a way the British approach mimics what I've been saying. No need to belittle FN's contributions to lift up Ms. Seacole.
  5. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from Tweety
    In a way the British approach mimics what I've been saying. No need to belittle FN's contributions to lift up Ms. Seacole.
    It's not that I'm trying to 'belittle' FN so much as I think that she is oversold. IF she were put more into the proper perspective, she wouldn't have as high a pedastool naturally. I don't think it 'belittles' her to suggest that she should never have been in a position that completely eclipses all other nursing history. In fact, my argument is just the opposite: the total eclipse of FN serves to belittle many others from our history. Mary Seacole is but one example.

    I was not aware, as SPACENURSE pointed out, the the FN oath was written by someone else at the turn of the 20th Cen, but I don't doubt it.

    This was one of my points. One of the reasons she is oversold is that she was the perfect example for the diploma programs that were being run by hospitals that were, more often than not, owned by doctors. She practically preached that the job should be done by women committed to poverty and morality, and that they should know their place in relationship to the doctors. What a perfect image of nursing for doctor owned hospitals to present.

    As such, she was emphasized to the point of legend. But, even as nursing struggled to move AWAY from such models, FN remains THE legend, to the point of crowding out other voices.

    You hear lots in nursing today about the struggle for growth from vocation to profession (these terms have NOTHING to do with the word vocation as used in the title, LVN. All nurses are struggling towards professionalism.) FN was adopted and elevated to legend BECAUSE she served to reinforce and define the prototypical image of nurse as vocation.

    A profession trying to evolve does itself no service by continuing to define our past SOLELY by the leaders that reinforced that vocational status. I'm not saying that FN wasn't a great nursing leader, or that she doesn't 'belong'. I'm saying that there is a REASON why she was elevated to legend status in the years AFTER her death, and that reason is at odds with modern nursing, and MEANT TO BE at odds with it.

    And my question is this: Why is she still put on this particular pedastool when this pedastool was designed to foster, for nurses, an image of nursing that knew its place.

    Nurses complain all the time about a lack of respect. WE define the measure of our respect. From the stupid 'nsg diagnosis' power defeating language we use, to the reverence for the term, Dr. while we are first named replaceable nobodies, nurses trade respect for the legacies of the past everyday.

    One of the key hurdles to the growth in the respect of our profession, it would seem to me, is reconciling our past to our future and CHANGING the things that defined and ENTRENCHED nursing as a vocation subserviant to doctors.

    FN was elevated to her pedastool to do just that: entrench nursing as a vocation. I simply ask this: why do WE keep her there, that being the case? It's not a matter of either/or. It's a matter of focus. I KNOW why FN was focused upon by the diploma programs of the 1900-1950's. I just don't know why that focus remains, today.

    Oh, she most certainly belongs in the front pages of the history of nursing. But you have to ask, Why is she the ONLY nurse that lifts from chapter one of nursing school and is held out as our angelic and selfless example of nursing?

    Why, indeed?

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '06
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    Listen to Florence!
    Plus the introduction by Adelaide Nutting, co author with Lavinia Dock of the book “A History of Nursing”:

    http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/nutting.htm
  7. by   sirI
    spacenurse, thank you so much for finding this piece of exciting history. I rather enjoyed listening to every word and the finishing words of Florence Nightingale brought tears to my eyes. I had hairs standing up on my arms.
  8. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Yes, but as has been pointed out repeatedly, FN was a product of her times.

    From an LSU doctoral dissertation on Lavinia Dock by Soledad Mujica Smith:
    http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/et.../Smith_dis.pdf

    "In Victorian society women were socially and legally subordinated to men, and their formal education seldom progressed beyond the primary level. A patriarchal canon contended that a more advanced education "robbed women of their charms and disrupted their contentment” (Cott, 1977, p. 110). Moreover, a common stereotype argued that women’s smaller brains could not withstand the rigors of higher education, and their reproductive capacities would be harmed by too much thinking (Evans, 1997)."

    FN might have believed in education for SINGLE women as a form of discipline to keep them chaste, but not too much. Her program focused on clinicals to the almost exclusion of 'charm robbing and child bearing reducing' didactic.

    To say otherwise is revisionist history. Nursing programs before the 1950's were NOT designed to advance the thinking minds of women. THAT's why doctors were created. And FN emphasized that point.

    And THAT's why those programs, run ultimately by doctors, elevated FN to legend. FN might have been unaware of the implications of her thoughts in the new century. But the 'leaders' of nursing in that new century, who weren't nurses, were CERTAINLY aware of those implications when they pushed FN to the forefront.

    If modern nursing is to rise above the stigma of such implications, we need to at least be aware of them. And that requires at least a re-evaluation of WHY FN is the legend she is. Like most of history, she became a political tool to advance an idea. My point: FN should be celebrated for what she was: a great statistician that revolutionized hospital practices. She should be de-emphasized for what she isn't: a modern vision of a chaste, moral, poverty-vowed vocation. In short, nurse as angel.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '06
  9. by   Tweety
    I can't argue how she was elevated to "legend" because I really don't know, and I'm not sure you do either, other than speculation. I conceed that might be true.

    My point is........nursing schools don't use her as a model, but discuss her in a historical context, even acknowledging her weaknesses (I'm pretty sure in my Concepts class I took recently they acknowledged her weakness, so it's an accurate assessment, rather than a revisionist, but I gave away the book so I can't verify that), but not totally dismissing her accomplishments either.

    Perhaps she doesn't need to the be powerful figure in our minds, while the other ones are forgotten. And indeed others made some tremendous contributions afterwards, ones that are more relevent to today's practice. (But isn't that the way with history, only a few major figures stand out? Ask your coworkers to name all the presidents of the USA and you'll find a few who can't, but all of them will come up with George Washington).

    End of discussion for me, because I'm boring myself and getting repetative.

    Thanks Timothy! We haven't had a real good back and forth disagreement in a while and it lets me know all is well in my world. LOL
    Last edit by Tweety on Oct 11, '06
  10. by   Tweety
    Quote from spacenurse
    Listen to Florence!
    Plus the introduction by Adelaide Nutting, co author with Lavinia Dock of the book “A History of Nursing”:

    http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/nutting.htm

    I did a paper on Ms. Nutting. Thanks for sharing this information.
  11. by   SharonH, RN
    Quote from ZASHAGALKA
    You might be right, but FN IS held up as a role model.

    The result: nursing as 'angels' and not high tech critical thinking professionals.

    FN represents a definition of nursing. And that definition: vocation.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.

    I don't have time tonight for a long discussion but there is some oversimplification of Florence Nightingale's contributions to nursing going on here. Part of the problem is that if you look at her career, it goes far, far beyond FN defining nursing as angels. In fact, if you look at her career, she was very much a critical thinker. It isn't her fault that her contributions to science are excluded in favor of the lady of the lamp crap.

    For one thing, she was a devoted statistician. SHE is the one who found out that more soldiers who died during the Crimean war did so as a result of illness during their hospitalization than their wounds. She is the one who conducted research and compiled statistics on a number of diseases in various communities. She is the one who promoted cleanliness, clean drinking water and sanitation as a means of maintaining and promoting health which as far as I'm concerned is just as important as the discovery of Penicillin. But unfortunately washing your hands is not as sexy as taking an injection to cure your ills and her contributions to public health in this way are downplayed in deference to medicine. More importantly she was an influential healthcare advocate during a time when the poor and ill had NO advocates.

    Yes there was a heavy religious component to her views and apparently she felt some sort of calling to do her work, but I don't think that negates the significance of the other work she did. Additionally, perhaps her views on nurses were a result of the fact that during her time nurses were often alcoholics and prostitutes? I also think that many of the quotes attributed to her about the role of nursing have not only been taken out of context but often twisted for other purposes. If you read many of her quotes and letters, clearly she was anything but deferential to medicine.


    As for Seacole, that's for another time.........
  12. by   pickledpepperRN
    SharonH, RN
    If you read many of her quotes and letters, clearly she was anything but deferential to medicine.
    Thank you Sharon.
  13. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from SharonH, RN
    It isn't her fault that her contributions to science are excluded in favor of the lady of the lamp crap.
    Oh, I perfectly agree with this.

    FN should be recognized for her contributions to science. NURSING SHOULD recognize that.

    The 'lady of the lamp' crap: that was a political propaganda used to define nursing, and still does today. We're 'angels' after all, not high skilled, high tech, critical thinking experts.

    I don't think you disagree with me at all. I'm not for putting down FN real contributions. I'm for extinguishing the 'lamp' 'crap'.

    Quote from SharonH, RN
    I also think that many of the quotes attributed to her about the role of nursing have not only been taken out of context but often twisted for other purposes. If you read many of her quotes and letters, clearly she was anything but deferential to medicine.
    Yes, but I have 2 points to this comments: 1. they were taken out of context ON PURPOSE to promote a particular, vocational view of nursing, and 2. Those quotes and images are the VERY SAME ones told to our nursing students still today.

    FN needs a serious image overhaul. Doing so would put both OUR view of nursing, and HER real work in a more positive light. I'm not trying to diss FN so much as that particular pedastool, the 'lady with the lamp' one. It diminishes her AND, by extension, us.

    And doing so would allow for other voices to shine through.

    Sharon, you said it at the beginning of your post: there is some serious oversimplification of FN going on. That oversimplification, and the image it creates, is what I take issue with. That image (not the reality of FN) was constructed for a specific purpose. And, it did not have the autonomy and professionalism of nursing in mind.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '06

close