Mary Seacole (1805-1881)
Born in Jamaica, it is thought that Mary Jane Seacole acquired nursing skills and an understanding of the Creole medical tradition from her mother. After nursing cases of cholera and yellow fever in Jamaica and Panama, Seacole sailed to England with the outbreak of the Crimean War, hoping to join Florence Nightingale’s nursing sisters.
Despite not qualifying for a place among this group, Seacole travelled to Crimea at her own expense; becoming a familiar figure at the battlefront, distributing medicines, food and drink. Eventually, she struggled financially and was forced to return to England. Luckily William Howard Russell and other war correspondents had reported her valued work in Crimea and several newspapers supported appeals to reimburse her for her losses. A Seacole fund, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, was established and since her death, 1 May has been celebrated by nurses as Mary Seacole Day.