Pioneer and Campaigner

Florence in her own words: Healthcare for women in India

Display No. 12

Some nineteenth century healthcare workers and missionaries would try to convert women in India to Christianity when they were pregnant, and even whilst giving birth. Nightingale was a devout Christian but she thought this was inappropriate.

Writing to the Duke of Westminster in 1896 Nightingale described her plan to:

“introduce in India native women health missioners to bring health among native rural mothers, by showing them what to do as friends.”

India is highly culturally diverse and Nightingale understood that this would only work if these women shared the same language, religion, and customs. Hinduism is just one of the religions of the Indian subcontinent and even within this faith there are varied traditions.

This photograph shows a modern Indian healthcare worker providing guidance on caring for children, something which Nightingale advocated for.

Health worker giving nutrition education, India. Credit: John & Penny Hubley. CC BY 4.0

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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!