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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 en.wikipedia.org

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.

c.1850;

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London in c.1873.1873:
  blog it

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