is one of the fortunate of the earth.
Inheriting from nature a striking and beneficent talent, she was able to cultivate that talent in circumstances the most favorable that could be imagined, and, finally, to exercise it on the grandest scale in the sight of all mankind.
Whatever difficulties may have beset her path, they were placed in it not by untoward fortune; they existed in the nature of her work, or were inseparable from human life itself.
She has had the happiness, also, of laboring in a purely disinterested spirit, and has been able to do for love what money could neither procure nor reward.
The felicity of both her names, Florence
, has often been remarked; and it appears that she owes both of them to accident.
Her father is William Edward Shore, an English gentleman of an ancient and wealthy Sheffield
family, and her mother is a daughter of William Smith
, who was for many years a member of Parliament, where he was particularly distinguished for his advocacy of the emancipation of the slaves in the British
In 1815, her father inherited the estates of his grand-uncle, Peter Nightingale
, on the condition expressed in his uncle's will, of his assuming the name of Nightingale
It so happened that she first saw
the light while the family were residing at the beautiful city of Florence
, and to this fact she is indebted for her first name.
The family consists of but four members, father, mother, and the two daughters, Parthenope
The date of the birth of the younger sister, Florence
, is variously given in the slight accounts which have been published of her life; but it was said in the public prints, at the time when her name was on every tongue, that she was born in the same year as Queen Victoria, which was 1819.
Her father is a well-informed and intelligent man, and it was under his guidance that she attained a considerable proficiency in the Latin
language and in mathematics, as well as in the usual branches and accomplishments of female education.
Early in life she was conversant with French, German, and Italian; she became also a respectable performer upon the piano; and she had that general acquaintance with science, and that interest in objects of art, which usually mark the intelligent mind.
Even as a little girl she was observed to have a particular fondness for nursing the sick.
She had the true nurse's touch, and that ready sympathy with the afflicted which enables those who possess it to divine their wants before they are expressed.
, as in most other densely peopled countries, poverty and disease abound on every side, in painful contrast to the elegance and abundance by which persons of the rank of Miss Nightingale
One consequence of this is, that the daughters of affluence, unless they are remarkably devoid of good feeling, employ part of their leisure in visiting the cottages of the poor, and ministering to the wants of the infirm and the sick.
It was thus that Florence Nightingale
began her voluntary apprenticeship to the noble art of mitigating human anguish.
Not content with paying the usual round of visits to the cottages near her father's estate, and giving, here a little soup, and
there a flannel petticoat, and at another place a poor man's plaster, she seriously studied the art of nursing, visited — hospitals in the neighborhood, and read with the utmost eagerness whatever she could find in her father's library relating to the treatment of disease, and the management of asylums
This was no romantic fancy of her youth.
is a truly intelligent and gifted woman,--as far as possible removed from the cast of character which is at once described and stigmatized by the word romantic.
She earnestly desired to know the best manner of mitigating the sufferings of the sick, the wounded, and the infirm; and she studied this beautiful science as a man studies that which he truly and ardently wishes to understand.
As it is the custom of wealthy families in England
to spend part of every year in London
, Miss Nightingale
was enabled to extend the sphere of her observation to the numberless hospitals and asylums of that metropolis.
These institutions are on the grandest scale, and were liberally endowed by the generosity of former ages; but at that time many of them abounded in abuses and defects of every description.
Everywhere she saw the need of better nurses, women trained and educated to their work.
Excellent surgeons were to be found in most of them; but in many instances the admirable skill of the surgeon was balked and frustrated by the blundering ignorance or the obstinate conceit of the nurse.
Those who observed this elegant young lady moving softly about the wards of the hospitals, little imagined, perhaps, that from her was to come the reform of those institutions.
may almost be said to have created the art of which she is the most illustrious teacher; but she was yet far from having perfected herself; many years were still to elapse before she was prepared to speak with the authority of a master.
still flourished for a while.
although her days were numbered.
It must not be supposed that this noble-minded lady denied herself the pleasures proper to her age, sex, and rank.
She enjoyed society and the pleasures of society, both in the country and in town.
Without being strictly beautiful, her face was singularly pleasing in its expression, and she had a slight, trim, and graceful figure.
Her circle of friends and acquaintances was large, and among them she was always welcome; but, like most properly constituted persons of our Saxon
blood, the happiest spot to her on earth was her own home.
The family connection of the Nightingales in England
is numerous, and she had friends enough for all the purposes of life among her own relations.
About 1845, in company with her parents and sister, she made an extensive tour in Germany
, and Italy
, visiting everywhere the hospitals, infirmaries, and asylums, and watching closely the modes of treatment practised in them.
The family continued their journey into Egypt
, where they resided — for a considerable time, and where the gifts of Miss Nightingale
in nursing the sick were, for the first time, called into requisition beyond the circle of her own family and dependants.
Several sick Arabs, it is said, were healed by her during this journey, which extended as far as' the farthest cataracts of the Nile
Her tour was of eminent use to her in many ways.
It increased her familiarity with the languages of Europe
, and gave her a certain knowledge of the world and of men, as well as of her art, which she turned to such admirable account a few years later.
Returning to England
, she resumed her ordinary life as the daughter of a country gentleman; but not for a long time.
, born into the Church of England, was then, and has ever since remained, a devoted member of it. In her religion, however, there is nothing bigoted nor excessive; she is one of those who manifest it chiefly by cheerfulness, charity, and good-living; nor does her attachment to
her own church blind her to the excellences of others.
In her travels upon the continent of Europe
, she had often met the Sisters
of Charity, and members of other Catholic Orders, serving in the hospitals.and asylums, and serving, too, with a fidelity, constancy, and skill, which excited in her the highest admiration and the profoundest respect.
It was a favorite dream of her youth, that, perhaps, there might one day be among Protestants some kind of Order of Nurses,a band of women devoted, for a time, or for life, to the holy awl arduous work of alleviating the anguish of the sick-bed.
About the year 1848, she heard that there was something of the kind in Germany
, under the charge of a benevolent lady and a venerable Lutheran pastor.
She hastened to enter this school of nurses, and spent six months there, acquiring valuable details of her art. In the hospital attached to it she served as one of the regular corps of nurses, among whom she was greatly distinguished for her skill and thoroughness.
Upon her return to England
, an opportunity was speedily furnished her for exercising her improved skill.
A very numerous class in England
are family governesses.
English people are not so well aware, as we are, how much better it is for children to go to a good school than to pursue their education at home, even under the most skilful private teacher.
Consequently, almost every family in liberal circumstances has a resident governess, an unhappy being, who suffers many of the inconveniences attached to the lot of a servant, without enjoying the solid advantages which ought to accompany servitude.
Upon salaries of twenty or thirty pounds a year, many of these ladies are required to make a presentable appearance, and associate, upon a sort of equality, with persons possessing a hundred times their revenue.
Unable to save anything for their declining years, nothing can be conceived more pitiable than the situation of a friendless English governess whom age or infirmities have deprived
of employment and of home.
For the benefit of such, an asylum was established in London
several years ago, which, however, had but a feeble life and limited means.
, on her return from Germany
, was informed that the institution was on the point of being given up, owing to its improper management and the slenderness of its endowment.
Her aid was sought by the friends of the asylum.
She accepted the laborious post of its superintendent, and she left her beautiful abode in the country, and took up her residence in the establishment in London
, to which she g*e both her services and a large part of her income.
For many months she was seldom seen at the entertainments, public and private, which she was formerly in the habit of enjoying; for she was in her place by the bedside of sick, infirm, or dying inmates of the governesses' hospital.
She restored order to its finances; she increased the number of its friends; she improved the arrangements of the interior; and when her health gave way under the excessive labors of her position, and she was compelled to retire to the country, she had the satisfaction of leaving the institution firmly established and well regulated.
But the time was at hand when her talents were to be employed upon a grander scale, and when her country was to reap the full result of her study and observation.
The war with Russia
In February and March, 1854, ship-loads of troops were leaving England
for the seat of war, and the heart of England
went with them.
In all the melancholy history of warlike expeditions, there is no record of one which was managed with such cruel inefficiency as this.
Everything like foresight, the adaptation of means to ends, knowledge of the climate, knowledge of the human constitution, seemed utterly wanting in those who had charge of sending these twenty-five thousand British troops to the shores of the Black Sea
The first rendezvous
was at Malta
, an island within easy reach of many of the most productive parts of two continents; but even there privation and trouble began.
One regiment would find itself destitute of fuel, but overwhelmed with candles.
In one part of the island there was a superfluity of meat, and no biscuit; while, elsewhere, there was an abundant supply of food for men, but none for horses.
It afterwards appeared that no one had received anything like exact or timely information, either as to the number of troops expected to land upon the island, or as to the time when they would arrive.
A curious example of the iron rigidity of routine in the British
service was this: In the old wars it took eight weeks for a transport to sail from England
; but although these troops were all conveyed in steamers, every steamer carried the old allowance of eight weeks supply of medicines and wines.
The chief physician of the force had been forty years in service, and the whole machinery of war worked stiffly from long inaction.
When the troops reached Gallipoli
, on the coast of the Sea of Marmora
, their sufferings really began.
No one had thought to provide interpreters; there were neither carts nor draught animals; so that it frequently happened that a regiment would be on shore several days without having any meat.
It does not appear to have occurred to any one that men could ever suffer from cold in a latitude so much more southern than that of England
The climate of that region is, in fact, very similar to that of New York or Philadelphia
There are the same intense heats in summer, the same occasional deep snows, excessive cold, and fierce, freezing rains of winter;--one of those climates which possess many of the inconveniences both of the torrid and the frigid zones, and demand a systematic provision against both.
In the middle of April, at Gallipoli
, the men began to suffer much from cold.
Many of them had no beds, and not a soldier in the army
had more than the one regulation blanket.
Instead of undressing to go to bed, they put on all the clothes they had, and wrapped themselves in anything they could find.
There was a small supply of blankets, but there was no one at hand who was authorized to serve them out, and it was thought a wonderful degree of courage in a senior staff-surgeon when he actually took the responsibility of appropriating some of these blankets for the use of the sick in the temporary hospital.
The very honesty of the English
stood in their way.
“These French Zouaves,” wrote Dr. Russell
, the celebrated correspondent of the London Times, “are first-rate foragers.
You may see them in all directions laden with eggs, meat, fish, vegetables (onions), and other good things, while our fellows can get nothing.
Sometimes, our servant is sent out to cater for breakfast or dinner; he returns with the usual ‘Me and the Colonel
's servant has been all over the town, and can get nothing but eggs and onions, sir;’ and lo!
round the corner appears a red-breeched Zouave or Chasseur, a bottle of wine under his left arm, half a lamb under the other, and poultry, fish, and other luxuries dangling round him. ‘I'm sure, I don't know how these French manages it, sir,’ says the crestfallen Mercury, and retires to cook the eggs.”
Some of the general officers
, instead of directing their energies to remedying this state of things, appear to have been chiefly concerned in compelling men to shave every day, and to wear their leathern stocks on parade.
One of the generals, it is said, hated hair on the heads and faces of soldiers with a kind of mania.
“Where there is much hair,” said he, “there is dirt, and where there is dirt there will be disease;” forgetting that hair was placed upon the human head and face to protect it against winds and weather such as these soldiers were experiencing.
It was not until the army had been ten weeks in the field, and were exposed to the blazing heat of summer, that the Queen
's own guards
were permitted to leave off those terrible stocks, and they celebrated the joyful event by three as thundering cheers as ever issued from the emancipated throats of men. After six months service, the great boon was granted of permitting the men to wear a mustache, but not a beard.
It was not until almost all order was lost and stamped out of sight in the mire and snow of the following winter, that the general in command allowed his troops to enjoy the protection of the full beard.
Nor were the private habits of the men conducive to the preservation of their health.
Twenty soldiers of one regiment were in the guard-house on the same day for drunkenness, at Gallipoli
As late as the middle of April there was still a lamentable scarcity of everything required for the hospital.
“There were no blankets for the sick,” wrote Dr. Russell
, “no beds, no mattresses, no medical comforts of any kind; and the invalid soldiers had to lie for several days on the bare boards, in a wooden house, with nothing but a single blanket as bed and covering.”
Every time the army moved it seemed to get into worse quarters, and to be more wanting in necessary supplies.
The camp at Aladyn, Where the army was posted at the end of June, was a melancholy example of this truth.
The camp was ten miles from the sea, in the midst of a country utterly deserted, and the only communication between the camp and the post was furnished by heavy carts, drawn by buffaloes, at the rate of a mile and a half an hour; and by this kind of transportation an army of twenty-five thousand men, and thirteen thousand horses, had to be fed. The scene can be imagined, as well as the results upon the comfort and health of the troops.
F In July the cholera broke out, and carried off officers and men of both armies in considerable numbers.
July the 24th, it suddenly appeared in the camp of the light division, and twenty men died in twenty-four hours. A sergeant attacked at seven A. M. was dead at noon. What was, at once,
remarkable and terrible in this disease, it was often quite painless.
And yet, in the midst of all this horror and death, the soldiers of both armies exhibited a wonderful recklessness.
“You find them,” wrote Dr. Russell
, “lying drunk in the kennels, or in the ditches by the roadsides, under the blazing rays of the sun, covered with swarms of flies.
You see them in stupid sobriety, gravely paring the rind off cucumbers of portentous dimensions, and eating the deadly cylinders one after another, to the number of six or eight,all the while sitting in groups, in the open streets; or, frequently, three or four of them will make a happy bargain with a Greek, for a large basketful of apricots, water-melons, wooden pears, and green gages, and then they retire beneath the shades of a tree, where they divide and eat the luscious food till nought remains but a heap of peels, rind, and stones.
They dilute the mass of fruit with peach brandy
, and then straggle home, or go to sleep as best they can.”
Think of the military discipline which could compel the wearing of stocks, forbid the growth of a beard, and permit
such heedless suicide as this, of men appointed to maintain the honor of their country's flag on foreign soil!
How incredible it would be, if we had not abundant proof of the fact, that, at this very time, a lieutenant-general issued an order directing cavalry officers to lay in a stock of yellow ochre and pipe clay
, for the use of the men in rubbing up their uniforms and accoutrements!
On the 13th of September, 1854, twenty-seven thousand British troops were landed upon the shores of the Crimea, and marched six miles into the country.
There was not so much as a tree for shelter on that bleak and destitute coast.
The French troops who landed on the same day had small shelter tents with them; but in all the English
host there was but one tent.
Towards night the wind rose, and it began to rain.
At midnight, the rain fell in torrents, and
continued to do so all the rest of the night, penetrating the blankets and overcoats of the troops, and beating pitilessly down upon the aged generals, the young dandies, the steady-going gentlemen, as well as upon the private soldiers of the English
army, who slept in puddles, ditches, and watercourses, without fire, without grog, and without any certain prospect of breakfast.
One general slept under a cart, and the Duke
himself was no better accommodated.
This was but the beginning of misery.
On the following day, signals were made on the admiral's ship for all the vessels of the great fleet to send their sick men on board the Kangaroo
In the course of the day, this vessel was surrounded by hundreds of boats filled with sick soldiers and sailors, and it was soon crowded to suffocation.
Before night closed in, there were fifteen hundred sick on board of her, and the scene was so full of horror that the details were deemed unfit for publication.
The design was that these sick men should be conveyed on the Kangaroo
to the neighborhood of Constantinople
, to be placed in hospital.
But when she had-been crammed with her miserable freight, she was ascertained to be unseaworthy, and all the fifteen hundred had to be transferred to other vessels.
Many deaths occurred during the process of removal.
On the same day men were dying on the beach, and did actually die, without any medical assistance whatever.
When the hospital was about to be established at Balaklava
, some days after, sick men were sent thither before the slightest preparation for them had been made, and many of them remained in the open street for several hours in the rain.
Winter came on,--such a winter as we are accustomed to in and near the city of New York
It began with that terrible hurricane, which many doubtless remember reading of at the time.
The whole army were still living in tents.
No adequate preparation had been made, of any kind, for
protecting the troops against such snows, and cold, and rain, as they were certain to experience.
This hurricane broke upon the camp early in the morning of November the fourteenth, an hour before daylight, the wind bringing with it torrents of rain.
The air was filled with blankets, coats, hats, jackets, quilts, bed-clothes, tents, and even with tables and chairs.
Wagons and ambulances were overturned by the force of the wind.
Almost every tent was laid prostrate.
The cavalry horses, terrified at the noise, broke loose, and the whole country, as far as the eye could reach, was covered with galloping horses.
During the day the storm continued to rage, while not a fire could be lighted, nor any beginning made of repairing the damage.
Towards night it began to snow, and a driving storm of snow and sleet tormented the army during the night.
This storm proved more deadly on sea than on shore, and many a ship, stored with warm clothing, of which these troops were in perishing need, went to the bottom of the Black Sea
A few days after, Doctor Russell
wrote: “It is now pouring rain,--the skies are black as ink,--the wind is howling over the staggering tents,--the trenches are turned into dykes,--in the tents the water is sometimes a foot deep,our men have not either warm or water-proof clothing, -they are out for twelve hours at a time in the trenches,they are plunged into the inevitable miseries of a winter campaign,--and not a soul seems to care for their comfort, or even for their lives.
These are hard truths, but the people of England
must hear them.
They must know that the wretched beggar, who wanders about the streets of London
in the rain, leads the life of a prince compared with the British
soldiers who are fighting out here for their country, and who, we are complacently assured by the home authorities, are the best appointed army in Europe
They are well fed, indeed, but they have no shelter, no rest, and no defence
against the weather.
The tents, so long exposed to the blaze of a Bulgarian sun, and now continually drenched by torrents of rain, let the wet through ‘like sieves,’ and are perfectly useless as protections against the weather.”
Never was there such mismanagement.
While the army were in this condition they suddenly found themselves reduced to a short allowance of food, and for nine days there was no tea or coffee.
The reason was, that the country roads, by which the provisions were brought from the seaside, seven miles distant, had become almost impassable.
Every one could have foreseen that this would be the case during the rainy season.
Every one could also see that the whole country was covered with small stones, just fit for making good roads; but nothing was done, and, for many miserable weeks, it was all that the commissary officers
could do to keep the army alive.
As for the port itself,--Balaklava
,it was such a scene of filth and horror as the earth has seldom exhibited.
Indeed, it was said, at the time, that all the pictures ever drawn of plague and pestilence, whether in works of fact or of fiction, fell far short of the scenes of disease and death which abounded in this place.
In the hospitals the dead lay side by side with the living, and both were objects appalling to look upon.
There was not the least attention paid to cleanliness or decency, and men died without the least effort being made to save or help them.
“There they lie,” records a writer, “just as they were let gently down on the ground by their comrades, who brought them on their backs from the camp with the greatest tenderness, but who are not allowed to remain with them.
The sick appear to be tended by the sick, and the dying by the dying.”
The four-footed creatures suffered not less than their masters.
“Two hundred of your horses have died,” said a Turk one morning to a British officer.
“Behold! What I have said is the truth;” and, as he said these words, ho
emptied a sack upon the floor, and there were four hundred horses' ears heaped up before the eyes of the wondering officer.
In January deep snows came to aggravate all this misery.
At the time there were three feet of snow
upon the ground.
On the 8th of January, 1855, one regiment could only muster seven men fit for duty; another had thirty; a freshly landed company was reduced from fifty-six to fourteen in a few days; and a regiment of Guards, which had had in all fifteen hundred and sixty-two men, could muster but two hundred and ten.
On that same eighth day of January some of Queen Victoria's own Household Guards were walking about in the snow, and going into action at night, without soles to their shoes!
Many men were frozen stiff in their tents; and as late as January the 19th, when there were drifts of snow six feet deep, sick men were lying in wet tents with only one blanket!
No one, therefore, will be surprised at the statement that on the 10th of February, out of a total of 44,948 British troops, 18,177 were in hospital.
The word hospital, when used in reference to the Crimean war, only conjures up scenes of horror.
Two scenes, selected from many such, will suffice to convey to the reader a vivid idea of the hospitals of the Crimea before an Angel went from England
to reform them.
January the 25th the surgeon of a ship, appointed to convey the sick to the general hospital at Scutari
, went on shore at Balaklava
and applied to an officer in charge of stores for two or three stoves to put on board his ship to warm the sick and dying troops.
Three of my men, “said he,” died last night from choleraic symptoms brought on by the extreme cold of the ship, and I fear more will follow them from the same cause.
“” Oh, “said the storekeeper,” you must make your requisition in due form, send it up to Headquarters, and get it signed properly,
and returned, and then I will let you have the stoves.
“” But my men may die meantime.
“” I can't help that; I must have the requisition.
“” It is my firm belief that there are men now in a dangerous state whom another night will certainly kill.
“” I really can do nothing; I must have a requisition properly signed before I can give one of those stoves away.
“” For God's sake, then, lend
me some; I'll be responsible for their safety.
“” I really can do nothing of the kind.
“” But, consider, this requisition will take time to be filled up and signed, and meantime these poor fellows will go. “” I cannot help that.
“” I'll be responsible for any thing you do. “” Oh, no, that can't be done.
“” Will a requisition signed by the post medical officer of this place be of any use?
“Will it answer if he takes on himself the responsibility?”
The surgeon went off in sorrow and disgust, knowing well that brave men were doomed to death by the obstinacy of this keeper of her Majesty's stores.
Another fact: In the middle of this terrible winter there was a period of three weeks when the hospitals nearest the main body of the army were totally destitute of medicines for the three most frequent diseases of an army in winter quarters; namely, fever, rheumatism, and diarrhea.
The most agonizing circumstance was, that the government had provided everything in superabundance.
But one hospital would have a prodigious superfluity of fuel, and no mattresses.
Another would have tons of pork, and no rice.
Another would have plenty of the materials for making soup, but no vessels to make it in. Here, there would be an abundance of coffee, but no means of roasting it; and, there, a hundred chests of tea, and not a pound of sugar to put in it. Again, there would be a house full of some needed article, and no officer within miles who had authority to serve it out. The surgeons did their best; but what could the few surgeons of
fifty regiments do with twenty thousand sick men?
As for nurses, there was hardly a creature worthy of the name in the Crimea.
In view of such facts as these no one can be surprised that the great hospitals at Scutari
were in such a condition, that, probably, they were the direct means of killing ten men for every one whom they saved from death.
It had perhaps been better if the poor fellows had been wrapped in blankets and laid upon a sheet of India-rubber on the snow in the open air, fed now and then, and left to take their chance.
heard of all this with amazement and consternation.
It was the “Times” newspaper through which it learned the details, and people began spontaneously to send sums of money to the editor of that journal for the relief of the soldiers.
The proprietors of the “Times” consented, at length, to receive and appropriate money for this object, and in thirteen days the sum of fifteen thousand pounds sterling was sent.in.
With this money thousands of shirts, sheets, stockings, overcoats, flannels, and tons of sugar, soap, arrow-root
, and tea, and great quantities of wine and brandy, were purchased, and a commissioner was sent out to superintend their distribution.
But the great horror was, the neglect of the sick in the hospitals, and a cry arose for a corps of skilful, educated nurses.
There was but one woman in England
fitted by character, position, and education, to head such a band.
, a member of the British
cabinet, was an old friend of Florence Nightingale
was thus acquainted with the peculiar bent of Miss Nightingale
's disposition, and the nature of her training.
By a curious coincidence, and yet not an unnatural one, she wrote to him offering her services, and he wrote to her asking her aid, on the same day. Other ladies of birth and fortune volunteered to accompany her, to whom were added some superior professional
October the 24th, 1854, Florence Nightingale
, accompanied by a clerical friend and his wife, and by a corps of thirty-seven nurses, left England
for the Crimea, followed by the benedictions of millions of their countrymen.
They travelled through France
On their journey the ladies were treated with more than the usual politeness of Frenchmen; the inn-keepers and even the servants would not take payment for their accommodation, and all ranks of people appeared to be in most cordial sympathy with their mission.
Among other compliments paid Miss Nightingale
by the press, one of the newspapers informed the public that her dress was charming, and that she was almost as graceful as the ladies of Paris
they were conveyed in a steamer to Scutari
, where the principal hospitals were placed, which they reached on the 5th of November.
In all the town, crowded with misery in every form, there were but five unoccupied rooms, which had been reserved for wounded officers of high rank; these were assigned to the nurses, and they at once entered upon the performance of their duty.
They came none too soon.
In a few hours wounded men in great numbers began to be brought in from the action of Balaklava
, and, ere long, thousands more arrived from the bloody field of Inkermann.
Fortunately, the “Times” commissioner was present to supply Miss Nightingale
's first demands.
Some days elapsed, however, before men ceased to die for want of stores, which had been supplied, which were present in the town, but which could not be obtained at the place and moment required.
One of the nurses reported that, during the first night of her attendance, eleven men died before her eyes, whom a little wine or arrow-root
would almost certainly have saved.
at once comprehended that it was no time to stand upon trifles.
On the second day after her arrival
six hundred wounded men were brought in, and the number increased until there were three thousand patients under her immediate charge.
, one of the gentlest and tenderest of women, surveyed the scene of confusion and anguish with unruffled mind, and issued her orders with the calmness that comes of certain knowledge of what is best to be done.
If red tape interposed, she quietly cut it. If there was no one near who was authorized to unlock a storehouse, she took a few Turks with her, and stood by while they broke it open.
During the first week her labors were arduous beyond what would have been thought possible for any one; she was known to stand for twenty hours directing the labors of men and women.
Yet, however fatigued she might be, her manner was always serene, and she had a smile or a compassionate word for the suffering as she passed them by.
As soon as the first needs of the men were supplied, she established a washing-house, which she found time herself to superintend.
Before that was done, there had been a washing contract in existence, the conditions of which were so totally neglected by the contractor, that the linen of the whole hospital was foul and rotten.
She established a kitchen, which she also managed to inspect, in which hundreds of gallons of beef-tea, and other liquid food, were prepared every day. She knew precisely how all these things should be done; she was acquainted with the best apparatus for doing them; and she was thus enabled, out of the rough material around her,--that is to say, out of boards, camp-kettles, camp-stores, and blundering Turks,--to create laundries and kitchens, which answered the purpose well, until better could be provided.
She also well understood the art of husbanding skilful labor.
When a few nurses could be spared from the wards of the hospital, she set them to preparing padding for amputated limbs, and other surgical appliances
; so that when a thousand wounded suddenly arrived from the battle-field,
men no longer perished for the want of some trifling but indispensable article, which foresight could have provided.
The “Times” commissioner wrote: “She is a ministering angel in these hospitals; and, as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow's face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers
have retired for the night, and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.”
What a picture is this!
The same writer continues: “The popular instinct was not mistaken which, when she set out from England
on her mission of mercy, hailed her as a heroine.
I trust that she may not earn her title to a higher though sadder appellation.
No one who has observed her fragile figure and delicate health can avoid misgivings lest these should fail.
With the heart of a true woman, and the manners of a lady, accomplished and refined beyond most of her sex, she combines a surprising calmness of judgment, and promptitude, and decision of character.”
Incredible as it now seems, the arrival of these ladies was far from being welcomed either by the medical or military officers, and it required all the firmness and tact of a Florence Nightingale
to overcome the obstacles which were placed or left in her way. Several weeks passed before the hospital authorities cordially co-operated with her. Still more incredible is it, that some cruel bigots in England
severely criticised her conduct in accepting the services of some of the Sisters
of Charity from Dublin
There was much discussion as to whether she was herself a Catholic or a Protestant; which led a witty clergyman to remark: “She belongs to a sect which unfortunately is a very rare one,--the sect of the Good Samaritans
One of the chaplains who labored with her, added.
with reference to another charge equally heartless and absurd: “If there is any blame in looking for a Roman Catholic
priest to attend a dying Catholic,--let me share it with her, for I did it again and again.”
The same excellent and liberal-minded chaplain, the Rev. S. G. Osborne
, in his work on the Hospitals
, describes, in the most interesting manner, the appearance and demeanor of Miss Nightingale
“In appearance,” he says, “she is just what you would expect in any other well-bred woman who may have seen, perhaps, rather more than thirty years of life; her manner and countenance are prepossessing, and this without the possession of positive beauty; it is a face not easily forgotten, pleasing in its smile, with an eye betokening great self-possession, and giving, when she pleases, a quiet look of firm determination to every feature.
Her general demeanor is quiet and rather reserved; still, I am much mistaken if she is not gifted with a very lively sense of the ridiculous.
In conversation, she speaks on matters of business with a grave earnestness one would not expect from her appearance.
She has evidently a mind disciplined to restrain, under the pressure of the action of the moment, every feeling which would interfere with it. She has trained herself to command, and learned the value of conciliation towards others and constraint over herself.
I can conceive her to be a strict disciplinarian; she throws herself into a work as its head,--as such she knows well how much success must depend upon literal obedience to her every order.
She seems to understand business thoroughly.
Her nerve is wonderful!
I have been with her at very severe operations: she was more than equal to the trial.
She has an utter disregard of contagion.
I have known her spend hours over men dying of cholera or fever.
The more awful to every sense any particular case; especially if it was that of a dying man, her slight form would be seen bending over him, administer
ing to his ease in every way in her power, and seldom quitting his side till death released him.”
What wonder that the troops idolized her!
One of the soldiers said: “She would speak to one and to another, and nod and smile to as many more; but she couldn't do it to all, you know; we lay there by hundreds; but we could kiss her shadow as it fell, and lay our heads on the pillow again content.”
Another soldier said: “Before she came, there was such cussina and swearina; and after that it was as holy as a church.”
All through that winter she toiled at her post, and all through the spring until the middle of May.
Then she was taken down with the camp fever, and for four or five days her condition excited much alarm.
She passed the crisis, however, and the whole army was soon rejoiced by hearing that she was convalescent.
In her little book, published since her return home, upon nursing, there are but two allusions to her services in the Crimea.
One is, that she had seen death in more forms than any other woman in Europe
The other is a touching reference to this convalescence.
Speaking of the delight which the sick take in flowers, she says: “I have seen in fevers (and felt when I was a fever patient myself) the most acute suffering produced, from the patient (in a hut) not being able to see out of window, and the knots in the wood being the only view.
I shall never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of bright-colored flowers.
I remember (in my own case) a nosegay of wild flowers being sent me, and from that moment recovery becoming more rapid.”
By this time, excursionists and yachtsmen began to arrive at the Crimea, one of whom lent her a yacht, the use of which much aided her recovery.
When she first sailed in it, she had to be carried to the vessel in the arms of men.
She remained in the Crimea a year and ten months, and
reached home again in safety, but an invalid for life, on the 8th of September, 1856.
felt that something must be done to mark the national gratitude, and perpetuate the memory of it forever.
Fifty thousand pounds were raised, almost without an effort, and it was concluded at length, to employ this fund in enabling Miss Nightingale
to establish an institution for the training of nurses.
She sanctioned and accepted this trust, and has been chiefly employed ever since in labors connected with it. The Sultan of Turkey
sent her a magnificent bracelet.
gave her a cross beautifully formed, and blazing with gems.
The queen invited her also to visit her in her retreat at Balmoral
, and Miss Nightingale
spent some days there, receiving the homage of the royal family.
Not the least service which this noble lady has rendered the suffering sons of men has been the publication of the work just referred to, entitled “Notes on nursing; what it is, and what it is not,” --one of the very few little books of which it can be truly said that a copy ought to be in every house.
In this work she gives the world, in a lively, vigorous manner, the substance of all that knowledge of nursing, which she has so laboriously acquired.
Her directions are admirably simple, and still more admirably wise.
“The chief duty of a nurse,” she says, “is simply this: to keep the air which the patient breathes as pure as the external air, but without chilling him
This, she insists, is the main point, and is so important that if you attend properly to that you may leave almost all the rest to nature.
She dwells most forcibly upon the absolute necessity, and wonderfully curative power, of perfect cleanliness and bright light.
Her little chapter upon Noise in the Sick Room
, in which she shows how necessary it is for a patient never to be startled, disturbed, or fidgeted, is most admirable and affecting.
She seems to have entered into the very soul of sick people, and
to have as' lively a sense of how they feel, what they like, what gives them pain, what hinders or retards their recovery, as though she were herself the wretch whose case she is describing.
If she had done nothing else in her life but produce this wise, kind, and pointed little work, she would deserve the gratitude of suffering man.
The book, too, although remarkably free from direct allusions to herself, contains much biographical material.
We see the woman on every page,--the woman who takes nothing for granted, whom sophistry cannot deceive, who looks at things with her own honest eyes, reflects upon them with her own fearless mind, and speaks of them in good, downright, Nightingale English
She ever returns to her grand, fundamental position, the curative power of fresh, pure air. Disease, she remarks, is not an evil, but a blessing; it is a reparative process
,--an effort of nature to get rid of something hostile to life.
That being the case, it is of the first importance to remove what she considers the chief
cause of disease,--the inhaling of poisonous air. She laughs to .scorn the impious cant, so often employed to console bereaved parents, that the death of children is a “mysterious dispensation of Providence
No such thing.
Children perish, she tells us, because they are packed into unventilated school-rooms, and sleep at night in unventilated dormitories.
“An extraordinary fallacy,” she says, “is the dread of night air. What air can we breathe at night but night air?
The choice is between pure night air from without and foul night air from within.
Most people prefer the latter.
An unaccountable choice!
An open window, most nights in the year, can never hurt any one.”
Better, she remarks, shut the windows all day than all night.
She maintains, too, that the reason why people now-a-days, especially ladies, are less robust than they were formerly, is because they pass the
greater part of their lives in breathing poison.
Upon this point she expresses herself with great force:--
“ The houses of the grandmothers and great grandmothers of this generation (at least, the country houses), with front door and back door always standing open, winter
, and a thorough draft always blowing through,--with all the scrubbing, and cleaning, and polishing, and scouring, which used to go on,--the grandmothers, and, still more, the great-grandmothers, always out of doors, and never with a bonnet on except to go to church; these things entirely account for a fact so often seen of a great-grandmother who was a tower of physical vigor, descending into a grandmother, perhaps a little less vigorous, but still sound as a bell, and healthy to the core, into a mother languid and confined to her carriage and her house, and lastly into a daughter sickly and confined to her bed. For, remember, even with a general decrease of mortality, you may often find a race thus degenerating, and still oftener a family.
You may see poor, little, feeble, washed-out rags, children of a noble stock, suffering, morally and physically, throughout their useless, degenerate lives; and yet people who are going to marry and to bring more such into the world, will consult nothing but their own convenience as to where they are to live or how they are to live.”
On the subject of contagion she has decided and important opinions.
“I was brought up,” she says, “both by scientific men and ignorant women, distinctly to believe that smallpox, for instance, was a thing of which there was once a first specimen in the world, which went on propagating itself in a perpetual chain of descent, just as much as that there was a first dog (or a first pair of dogs), and that small-pox would not begin itself any more than a new dog would begin without there having been a parent dog. Since then, I have seen with my eyes, and smelt with my nose, small-pox growing
up in first specimens
, either in close rooms or in overcrowded wards, where it could not by any possibility have been caught, but must
I have seen diseases begin, grow up, and pass into one another.
Now, dogs do not pass into cats.
I have seen, for instance, with a little overcrowding, continued fever grow up; and, with a little more, typhoid fever; and, with a little more, typhus; and all in the same ward or hut. Would it not be far better, truer, and more practical, if we looked upon disease in this light?”
“Again,” she says, addressing parents, “why must a child have measles?
If you believed in and observed the laws for preserving the health of houses, which inculcate cleanliness, ventilation, whitewashing, and other means (and which, by the way, are laws
) as implicitly as you believe in the popular opinion (for it is nothing more than an opinion) that your child must
have children's epidemics, don't you think that, upon the whole, your child would be more likely to escape altogether?”
is an enemy of crinoline, the wearing of which she styles “an absurd and hideous custom.”
“The dress of women,” she adds, “is daily more and more unfitting them for any mission or usefulness at all. It is equally unfitted for all poetic and all domestic purposes.
A man is now a more handy and far less objectionable being in a sickroom than a woman.
Compelled by her dress, every woman now either shuffles or waddles; only a man can cross the floor of a sick-room without shaking it!
What has become of woman's light step,--the firm, light, quick step we have been asking for?”
She has a very pleasing and suggestive passage upon the kind of conversation which is most beneficial to the sick.
“A sick person,” she observes, “does so enjoy hearing good news; for instance, of a love and courtship while in progress
to a good ending.
If you tell him only when the marriage takes place, he loses half the pleasure, which, God knows, he has little enough of; and, ten to one, but you have told him of some love-making with a bad ending.
A sick person also intensely enjoys hearing of any material good, any positive or practical success of the right.
He has so much of books and fiction, of principles, and precepts, and theories!
Do, instead of advising him with advice he has heard at least fifty times before, tell him of one benevolent act which has really succeeded practically; it is like a day's health to him. You have no idea what the craving of the sick, with undiminished power of thinking, but little power of doing, is to hear of good practical action, when they can no longer partake in it. Do observe these things with the sick.
Do remember how their life is to them disappointed and incomplete.
You see them lying there with miserable disappointments, from which they can have no escape but death, and you can't remember to tell them of what would give them so much pleasure, or at least an hour's variety.
They don't want you to be lachrymose and whining with them; they like you to be fresh, and active, and interesting; but they cannot bear absence of mind; and they are so tired of the advice and preaching they receive from everybody, no matter whom it is, they see. There is no better society than babies and sick people for one another.
Of course you must manage this so that neither shall suffer from it, which is perfectly possible.
If you think the air of the sick-room bad for the baby, why it is bad for the invalid, too, and therefore you will of course correct it for both.
It freshens up the sick person's whole mental atmosphere to see ‘the baby.’
And a very young child, if unspoiled, will generally adapt itself wonderfully to the ways of a sick person, if the time they spend together is not too long.”
These passages give us a more correct conception of the
mind and character of Florence Nightingale
than any narrative of her life which has yet been given to the public.
There has been nothing of chance in her career.
She gained her knowledge, as it is always gained, by faithful and laborious study, and she acquired skill in applying her knowledge by careful practice.
There can be no doubt that the example of Miss Nightingale
had much to do in calling forth the exertions of American women during our late war. As soon as we had wounded soldiers to heal, and military hospitals to serve, the patriotic and benevolent ladies of America
thought of Florence Nightingale
, and hastened to offer their assistance; and, doubtless, it was the magic of her name which assisted to open a way for them, and broke down the prejudices which might have proved insurmountable.
When Florence Nightingale
overcame the silent opposition of ancient surgeons and obstinate old sergeants in the Crimea, she was also smoothing the path of American women on the banks of the Potomac
and the Mississippi
Her name and example belong to the race which she has honored; but to us, whom she served in the crisis of our fate, and thus associated her name with the benevolent and heroic ladies of our land, she will ever be peculiarly dear.