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Florence Nightingale: Victorian Rebel

by Tracey Devlyn

Must I pick only one woman who fascinates me? LOL Ah, well, then I select Miss Florence
Nightingale (1820 - 1910)—nurse, writer, statistician, and hospital reformist.

Florence Nightingale was a Victorian rebel.

Born into a well-connected British family, Nightingale was expected to marry well and produce a bevy of children, the same as any wealthy young lady of that era. But Nightingale followed a different path, one that would put her at odds with her beloved family and one that she believed to be a calling from God. Florence Nightingale became a nurse.

In 1854 (CrimeanWar), Nightingale and 38 volunteer nurses set off for Scutari, Turkey after hearing about the deplorable conditions of the wounded British soldiers. When she arrived, the situation was much worse than she had anticipated. The soldiers were malnourished and without proper bedding, and many were filthy and still wearing their gore-covered uniforms. In addition, she soon learned that the army hospital was built on a massive cesspool, which was poisoning the drinking water and the building itself.

Nightingale focused her attention on improving the hospital’s sanitation, nutrition, and activities for the patients, despite the many obstacles thrown her way by doctors and military officials. Within the first six months, the number of deaths from preventable diseases reduced by two-thirds. Amazing, huh? Although Nightingale’s health was never quite the same after her stint in Turkey, she continued fighting for hospital reform long after she returned to England.

In 1860, Nightingale saw another one of her passions realized—a training school for nurses. Housed at St. Thomas’ Hospital, the Nightingale Training School opened its doors to fifteen intrepid probationers. It was then modern trained nursing was born.

These are a just few of the reasons why I find Florence Nightingale fascinating. I haven’t even touched on the impact she had on empowering women, improving Britain’s sanitation, introducing visual statistical graphs, and redesigning hospital floor plans.

Do you find Miss Nightingale fascinating, too?


  1. Interesting choice! I do find her fascinating, now that I know a little more about her. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I watched a movie about her a long time ago, and she was truly fascinating! Thanks for sharing, Tracey!

  3. She was definitely a pioneer who proved that women were capable of being in the medical field. I've always considered her a fascinating person.

  4. My mom is a nurse, and I thought about going to nursing school... until I decided I was a decidedly bookish English major :) Florence Nightingale was truly fascinating!! Thanks for sharing, Tracey.

  5. Good choice Tracey. What an amazing woman. We throw her name around as a stereotype, but it was nice to stop and remember how important she was, and how she got to be such a legendary figure.

  6. Shana, Terry, Maria, Danielle and Anita--

    Thanks for stopping in! I'm so glad others find "Flo" as interesting as I do.


  7. She's also thought to have suffered unresolved PTSD, manifesting as depression. How hard it must have been, to be subjected to such misery, work so hard to alleviate it, and be given such a hard time for trying to save lives and reduce suffering. Sometimes it's a wonder our species is still on the planet.

  8. An amazing choice, Tracey! Aren't we glad there were women like her in the past who saw a need and stood up for what she believed!?

  9. Great post! My team at the college does a "Great Women in History" presenation every March and you just gave me some great material. :)

  10. Having taken the Florence Nightingale Pledge when I became a nurse, I always thought Flo was a pretty remarkable lady. The words of that pledge are still applicable today--except maybe the parts about "purity" and abstaining from the "mischievous!"

    I solemnly pledge myself before God and 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 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.

  11. I find her absolutely fascinating, and I'm a huge fan of the time period! Thank you for a wonderful post, Tracey!


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