30th June was an exciting day for everyone interested in the history of nursing as it saw the unveiling of a statue to Victorian heroine Mary Seacole. Mary Seacole was one of many women who worked in hospitals and the battlefields of the Crimean war, but her warmth and personality made her a favourite with the soldiers and British public alike. As well as dealing in food and supplies on the battlefields, she nursed the soldiers with traditional herbal remedies learned from her mother in her home of Jamaica.
Despite Mary Seacole’s fame in her lifetime, her story was forgotten for many years, so the idea of creating a statue to mark her life was born. A long fundraising campaign was to follow, finally resulting in the unveiling ceremony on a sunny summer morning. Prominent figures from the nursing community were present, including the Directors of the Nightingale Fellowship and the Florence Nightingale Foundation. Fans of the 1970s classic childrens’s programme “Play School” were excited to see Baroness Floella Benjamin unveil the statue.
Today it stands, the work of well-known artist Martin Jennings, in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital – arguably at the very heart of London. Such a statue of Mary Seacole is especially important because of the relatively few statues to women in Britain, and those statues of women that do exist are primarily of royals or representational figures. Incredibly, it is a fact that this new statue to Mary Seacole is the first statue in the entire United Kingdom to be dedicated to a named, black women. The Florence Nightingale Museum are proud to have this new piece of art on our own doorstep.