Florence the Woman

A Crimean “Cock & Bull” Story, 10 November 1855

Display No. 188

Nightingale cared deeply about her nurses. When she was visiting the Castle Hospital in Balaclava during the Crimean War she was told incorrectly that one of her nurses had died at Scutari Hospital. She later discovered that nurse in question, Miss Morton, was alive and well.

On 10 November 1855 Nightingale wrote this angry letter in response, describing her nurses as like daughters to her.

“Dear Sir,

I was unspeakably relieved to find (by the mail which came in last night) that no Nurse was dead or dying – that Miss Morton was comfortably sitting up in my room at my private house in Scutari – perfectly recovered, by her Docter’s & her own account, of everything but weakness. And when next Mr [name scored out] brings such a “cock & bull” story to the Crimea to “frighten honest folk out of their wits”, who have the responsibility of others’ lives & health, will you tell him that, if a patient dies in our Hospitals at Scutari, his name is sent to me – far more if one of the women dies, who have been placed under my charge as much as if I were their mother, I should expect any man to have the humanity to learn her name before he communicates her death.
Believe me, dear Sir. 

Yours truly, Florence Nightingale.”

The Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive

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Nightingale is respected worldwide for her pioneering role in developing the nursing profession, her statistical work, and her evidence-based approach to healthcare. In honour of her bicentenary the World Health Organisation have named 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

In our special exhibition, you will find out about objects, people and places which tell interesting stories about Florence’s life and legacy. You’ll discover artefacts from her life, people she both inspired and challenged, and places she helped to shape. There’s many more insights too!

Please click on the different sections of her famous coxcomb diagram to explore various aspects of her life and legacy. We hope you enjoy exploring!