Florence the Woman

Choosing a Life without Marriage

Display No. 73

Florence received several marriage proposals during her lifetime. She came close to accepting the politician and poet Richard Monckton Milnes but eventually turned him down in 1849, much to her parents’ despair.

She knew that marriage would prevent her from acting on her “call to service” from God. When Sir Harry Verney proposed to Florence, she again declined, but instead introduced him to her sister Parthenope, and the couple married the following year.

Florence also received marriage proposals from Marmaduke Wyville and Henry Nicholson. However instead of marrying she chose to dedicate her life her work and her relationships with her friends, her family, and her numerous godchildren.

Half-length oil portrait of Sir Harry Verney in three quarter profile, a white man wearing a white high-collared shirt, red waistcoat, black cravat and jacket. He is bald on top, with well-groomed grey hair around the back and sides and light-brown mutton chops which turn grey towards the temples.

Portrait of Sir Harry Verney. Florence Nightingale Museum Collection

Exhibits from ‘Florence the Woman’

Discover the 200 Exhibits

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!