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Mary Seacole: Black British Heroine

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Thanks to a Clipmarks clipper from the UK named MickFinn, I’ve been amazed by the heroic story of Mary Seacole. Here’s MickFinn’s intro:

Mary Jane Grant was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. Her father was a Scottish soldier, and her mother a Jamaican. Mary learned her nursing skills from her mother, who kept a boarding house for invalid soldiers. Although technically ‘free’, being of mixed race, Mary and her family had few civil rights – they could not vote, hold public office or enter the professions. In 1836, Mary married Edwin Seacole but the marriage was short-lived as he died in 1844.

clipped from

Mary Jane Seacole was a mixed-race British nurse. . . Seacole was taught herbal remedies and folk medicine by her mother . . .
[O]f a nomadic disposition, on hearing of the terrible conditions of the Crimean War and certain that her knowledge of tropical medicine would be of use, she travelled to London and volunteered as a nurse . . .
Although an expert at dealing with cholera, her application to join Florence Nightingale‘s team was rejected . . . She then borrowed money to make the 4,000 mile journey alone . . .
[S]he distinguished herself, treating the wounded on the battlefield, on many occasions treating wounded soldiers from both sides while under fire . . .
Following the cessation of hostilities in 1856 she found herself stranded and almost destitute, and was saved from penury by the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces . . .
Today she is noted not only for her bravery and medical skills but as “a woman who succeeded despite the racial prejudice of influential sections of Victorian society”

A watercolour of Mary Seacole, with sleeves rolled up ready for action. c.1850.


The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London in c.1873.1873:
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I wonder how many thousands of such heroes there are, of whom I’ve never heard. You know of her?

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Written by Monte

February 13, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Posted in healthcare, Race, Women

Peering-in to what we cannot fully know

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Coins Iudea CaptaWhat do these coins mean?

Worship of Sunday, December 3, 2006 (Advent 2 C)

New Oaks Church, Washington, IA USA

Call to Worship: Georgann Haeffner

Monte: It is the first day of Advent – Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

December 8, 2006 at 1:08 pm

About ‘The Least, First’

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The Merciful Samaritan
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I’m a pastor.

So I’m working my way through Luke’s gospel (I think it was) one year, and I realize, “Man, if I take these stories as they come, I’m preaching about Jesus and poor people week after week.”

This was a worrisome change from priorities I’d always followed.  Yet, in another way, it wasn’t:  I’d been taught to value speaking with integrity.  In recent years, especially, I’d wanted to be clearer in my own mind that what I was teaching was reflective of what seemed to matter most to Jesus.  For it wasn’t hard to see in history that religious dogmatism had trumped Jesus’ example time and again, and with sometimes horrible results.

I decided to walk through the Jesus stories and talk about what he talked about.  And if I did it with integrity, what he talked about most would be what I talked about most.

I ended up at this nexus of Jesus and poor people.  In fact, stunned by it, I asked my church one Sunday morning to tally up how many times it happened in Luke’s core chapters, 4-21.  How many times would Jesus be caring for someone in poverty (widows) or isolation (lepers) or someone considered by the culture of the day to be of low prestige (women, children, foreigners), or hated (Samaritans and tax extortioners) or thought to be under God’s judgment (adulterers and people in disasters)?

Poverty in a developed nation, as seen in Harl...
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And how many times would he tenderly make such people the heroes of the stories he invented, scandalizing his audiences?  Telling of the “good” Samaritan would be like using a black man as a role model to Ku Klux Klan members during the Jim Crow South, or a Native American as an example of virtue in a 19th-century U.S. Cavalry outpost—or an immigrant without papers as an example of familial love before a modern anti-immigration convention.

Between the two, we counted 27 events in 14 chapters! “If we wrote the history of our church in 14 chapters, would there be two stories of our caring for disenfranchised people in every chapter?”  Hardly.  And if I were to represent the teachings of Jesus with integrity . . . well, you see the point.

It’s been a few years now.  The impression has been confirmed again and again.  “In as much as you do it to the least of these,” Jesus would say, “You do it unto me.”

If I take Jesus’ example – the least, first – and look at relationships, politics, foreign policy, race, economics, gender, culture . . . where do I end up, week after week?

Your thoughts?


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Written by Monte

February 1, 2006 at 9:56 pm

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