For years, Mary Seacole’s work in Crimea had been hidden by Florance Nightingale’s shadow, but finally her story has been brought into the spotlight. Mary’s story begins in Jamaica, where she was born in 1805. She was raised by her mother who was a “doctress”. Mary as a child, soon started helping her mother make special remedies and would experiment on her dolls, and even her dog.
When Mary was a little older, she visited England and loved it. She always felt a strong connection there. This visit instilled a passion in Mary to travel. Mary’s brother moved to Cruces, in Panama, during the California gold rush and ran a hotel there. During Mary’s visit the disease cholera struck. Mary began treating the sick with her remedies she had learned years ago. While in Panama, she also opened up her own hotel, restaurant, where she treated many who became ill. Here she gained her reputation as a “nurse”.
Mary read about the war in Crimea and decided to volunteer as a nurse. She traveled to England and tried to apply to be one of Florance Nightingale’s nurses, but was rejected. So, Mary decided to travel to Crimea and used her own money to build a hotel, that she named “The British Hotel”. Here she took care of the sick and wounded and was given the nickname “Mother Seacole”. The hotel was located on the battlefront where she saw many soldiers and dear friends perish. She was often seen on the battlefield bringing food, medicine, and treating the wounded. A newspaper reporter for the times wrote, “Mrs. Seacole doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendants near the battlefield to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellows blessings”. She was shot at and even dislocated her thumb in the process. When the war ended, she couldn’t sell The British Hotel or any of her goods so, she left for England destitute.
Back in England Mary Seacole was forgotten in Florance Nightingale’s shadow for many years. Mary’s story of troubles was printed in the British press, and many people helped donate money and set up a fund. A parade was held in her honor and drawled 40,000 people. She published her autobiography, “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands”, the first written by a black woman in Britain. Mary Seacole died in 1881 at her home in London.
Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, is a very powerful story and had my heart feeling so many emotions. If you like historical novels I recommend it.
Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands edited by W.J.S.
Mary Seacole Angel of the Crimea documentary.