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

  1. 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 wealth and the publicity of being friends with the editor of the London Times - like Florence.

    She was not only involved with the Crimean War - she was on the front lines and not in some hospital far from the front.

    She pushed the limits of nursing and scoffed at the limitations that Florence thought was 'prudent' for women of her day.

    Florence Nightingale was a perfect role model for the diploma nursing programs that developed in hospitals ran by doctors in the early 20th Century: she advocated that women generally, and nurses specifically, should know their place. I just don't think that image should be paraded for modern nursing that intends to surpass such limitations.

    Mary Seacole, on the other hand, created her place from wholecloth. She pushed the boundaries of what a nurse could be and envisioned nursing in a way that is more in tune with our modern goals.

    In the debate about vocation vs professionalism, Nightingale was a vocationalist. Seacole: a true visionary for a profession all our own.

    Mary Seacole - Wikipedia

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
  2. Visit ZASHAGALKA profile page

    About ZASHAGALKA

    Joined: May '05; Posts: 7,520; Likes: 4,027
    20+ yr RN; from US
    Specialty: 15 year(s) of experience in Critical Care

    28 Comments

  3. by   Tweety
    As I said before Florence was a product of her times and this should be a consideration before we judge her too harshly. As someone else said, as a well-educated bred society woman at least she didn't take her place among the ladies of the day and educated her herself (which was a rarity back then) and advocated on behalf of her patients.

    Mary Seacole was an interesting person as well. We studied her right along with Ms. Nightengale and some peers wrote some interesting papers on her.

    I think for role models, I don't have to look back over 100 years. I acknowledge their contributions, but I model myself first through my internal motivations, but also on more modern mentors, born this century.
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    Absolutely!

    A great American nurse leader was Lavinia Dock RN. I wish more nurses had truly listened to her. Our profession would be in a better position.
    Still enough nurses agreed that nursing became its own profession NOT totally controlled by physicians. She was an amazing woman ahead of her time.

    http://www.ana.org/hof/dockll.htm

    http://www.workingworld.com/magazine...icleno=433&wn=

    http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/sw0058.xml

    http://prop1.org/inaugur/81reagan/170630sf.htm

    http://www.nursinglibrary.org/Portal...=4024&pid=8255
  5. by   llg
    Why do some people have to see it as an "either/or" choice? Throughout history, there have been many people who have contributed to the development of the nursing profession in many different ways. We should be able to recognize and respect the contributions of all of them without having to choose between them.

    Such "either/or" thinking divides us and makes us weaker.
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    Quote from llg
    Why do some people have to see it as an "either/or" choice? Throughout history, there have been many people who have contributed to the development of the nursing profession in many different ways. We should be able to recognize and respect the contributions of all of them without having to choose between them.

    Such "either/or" thinking divides us and makes us weaker.
    I think you are right!

    So many contributed to our profession. I was only adding a great nurse leader we should learn about.
    Lavinia Dock wrote the first medication book for nurses. He "Short History of Nursing" should be required for all students. It is easy to read like a good novel.

    And she led they way for the nursing profession to support the vote for women.
  7. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from llg
    Why do some people have to see it as an "either/or" choice? Throughout history, there have been many people who have contributed to the development of the nursing profession in many different ways. We should be able to recognize and respect the contributions of all of them without having to choose between them.

    Such "either/or" thinking divides us and makes us weaker.
    It's not 'either/or'. Florence does deserve a place at the table, just not a pedastool.

    A British Union voted in 1999 to displace Florence from that pedastool because she is not a good role model for modern nursing. I agree.

    She was a great role model for her time, AND for the diploma programs of the 1920-50's that wanted a role model for nursing that advocated knowing 'our place'.

    But, her place on that pedastool remains a throwback to a vision of nursing at odds with professionalism.

    It's not a matter of 'either/or' but a matter of focus. A focus on FN is past its time. She may have been 'foundational' to nursing, but we have moved beyond those foundations. And, thankfully so.

    Just as it is improper to castigate slave owners for living within the limits of their day and age, it is irresponsible to put down FN for the limits of HER age. But, we don't celebrate Thomas Jefferson because he was a slave owner. The very things that FN advocated for nursing make her celebration within nursing a focus on those old mores.

    We've moved past that. The time has come to put FN into a proper perspective. A pedastool is not that perspective. Her claim to fame was wealth and media access. Otherwise, she would have been just as much a footnote as Mary Seacole.

    But, Mary Seacole did the things she did on her own merit and without the Paris Hilton level paparazzi.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 10, '06
  8. by   Tweety
    I don't think any of them are role models for modern nursing.

    Gee, even the American nurses cira 1960 bear little resemblence to modern nurses.

    Change with the times, change paradignms, why must we choose role modeling the people from over 100 years ago. Acknowledge the contributions, but no need to look up to them as role models.

    Florence stepped away from her wealth and got her hands dirty, and she had a highly intelligent brain and used it. I think to say she bought her fame is a bit unfair.

    Perhaps she doesn't deserve to be on a pedastal above the other nurse pioneers, but your thinking is illogical to me.
    Last edit by Tweety on Oct 10, '06
  9. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from spacenurse
    Absolutely!

    A great American nurse leader was Lavinia Dock RN. I wish more nurses had truly listened to her. Our profession would be in a better position.
    Still enough nurses agreed that nursing became its own profession NOT totally controlled by physicians. She was an amazing woman ahead of her time.
    It is a testament to FN crowding out other legitimate voices from the history of nursing that I have almost no idea who Lavinia Dock was. It's just a name to me.

    But, I'll look her up and then respond more.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
  10. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from Tweety
    I don't think any of them are role models for modern nursing.

    Gee, even the American nurses cira 1960 bear little resemblence to modern nurses.

    Change with the times, change paradignms, why must we choose role modeling the people from over 100 years ago. Acknowledge the contributions, but no need to look up to them as role models.
    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.
  11. by   Tweety
    Quote from ZASHAGALKA
    It is a testament to FN crowding out other legitimate voices from the history of nursing that I have almost no idea who Lavinia Dock was. It's just a name to me.

    But, I'll look her up and then respond more.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.

    We studied Lavina Dock. We studied quite a bit of people. Of course Florence is the one people remember.
  12. by   Tweety
    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.

    True, that's because back then it was a vocation.

    We've moved beyond nursing as a vocation, of course we forever debate whether it's a "profession" or not, so we are no longer using Florence as a role model.

    I'm sorry, but your insistence that we are using Florence as a role model for our current practice and definition of our profession just doesn't ring true from my perspective.
  13. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from Tweety
    I'm sorry, but your insistence that we are using Florence as a role model for our current practice and definition of our profession just doesn't ring true from my perspective.
    I think you misunderstand me. I'm not out there looking for a role model to define my profession. But, we DO spend the first week of practically every nursing program discussing history, etc.

    And FN crowds out all other history. She is high upon a pedastool. So high that even most non-nurses know of her.

    Some of that is residual of her popularity. But most of it, I think, is that she serves as a proto-typical image of nursing: an image that is not in nursing's best interest to continue to promote.

    I'll give you an example. I asked 10 nurses at work tonight, 2 just graduated, 2 in grad school, and 6 with varying degrees of experience the followinq unscientific poll:

    1. In your opinion, name the most important nurse in the history of nursing:

    Results (after I made the 2 that answered - me - and -gaylord focker- reanswer): 9 votes for FN, 1 for Clara Barton. Mind you, this question was rigged in favor of a NON - FN vote as people assumed it was a 'trick' question.

    2. Tell me who Mary Seacole was?

    Results: only 1 in 10 knew who she was or had heard of her. And actually, That nurse knew quite a bit about Mary Seacole because she had seen a show on TV about her awhile back.

    3. Tell me who Lavinia Dock was?

    Results: nobody knew who she was. 1 nurse stated she had heard the name, but didn't know anything about her.

    I think this is very telling. But so are the following comments:

    3 of the 10 nurses stated that they didn't know of ANY historical nurses other than FN.

    And one new grad sheepishly admitted to only knowing about FN because, "I only know what they fed me in school."

    I'm not advocating that everybody find some historical figure to be their role model. I'm saying that FN is perhaps not the best figure to teach in school, or, in any case, to focus on so much.

    ~faith,
    Timothy.
    Last edit by ZASHAGALKA on Oct 11, '06
  14. by   ZASHAGALKA
    Quote from Tweety
    Of course Florence is the one people remember.
    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.

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