Mary Seacole
Overview
Mary Jane Seacole sometimes known as Mother Seacole or Mary Grant, was a Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

n nurse best known for her involvement in the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

. She set up and operated boarding houses in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 and the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 to assist in her desire to treat the sick. Seacole was taught herbal remedies and folk medicine by her mother, who kept a boarding house for disabled
Disability
A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.Many people would rather be referred to as a person with a disability instead of handicapped...

 European soldiers and sailors.

Confident that her knowledge of tropical medicine could be useful, and after hearing of poor medical provisions for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, she travelled to London to volunteer as a nurse.
Encyclopedia
Mary Jane Seacole sometimes known as Mother Seacole or Mary Grant, was a Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

n nurse best known for her involvement in the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

. She set up and operated boarding houses in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 and the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 to assist in her desire to treat the sick. Seacole was taught herbal remedies and folk medicine by her mother, who kept a boarding house for disabled
Disability
A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.Many people would rather be referred to as a person with a disability instead of handicapped...

 European soldiers and sailors.

Confident that her knowledge of tropical medicine could be useful, and after hearing of poor medical provisions for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, she travelled to London to volunteer as a nurse. Relying on her experience in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, she applied to the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 and asked to be sent as an army assistant to the Crimea. She was refused, mainly because of prejudice against women's involvement in medicine at the time.

The British Government later decided to permit women to travel to the affected area, but she was not included in the party of 38 nurses chosen by Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

. Instead, she borrowed money to make the 4,000-mile (about 6500 km) journey by herself. She distinguished herself treating battlefield wounded, often nursing wounded soldiers from both sides while under fire. When the conflict ended in 1856 she found herself stranded and almost destitute, and was only saved from adversity by friends from the Crimean War who organised a benefit concert. In later years, she expressed a desire to work in India after the Indian Rebellion of 1857
Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company's army on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to...

, but was unable to raise the necessary funds.

Seacole was honoured in her lifetime, alongside Florence Nightingale, but after her death she was forgotten for almost a century. Today, she is noted for her bravery and medical skills and as "a woman who succeeded despite the racial prejudice of influential sections of Victorian society". Her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), is a vivid account of her experiences, and is one of the earliest autobiographies of a mixed-race woman.

Early life, 1805–1825

Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston
Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston is the capital and largest city of Jamaica, located on the southeastern coast of the island. It faces a natural harbour protected by the Palisadoes, a long sand spit which connects the town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport to the rest of the island...

, Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

, the daughter of a white Scottish
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

 officer in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 and a free Jamaican Creole
Creole peoples
The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings...

 woman. Seacole's mother was a "doctress", a healer who used traditional Caribbean and African herbal remedies. She ran Blundell Hall, a boarding house at 7 East Street in Kingston and one of the best hotels in the whole of Kingston. Many of the residents were disabled European soldiers and sailors, often suffering from the endemic yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

. Here Seacole acquired her nursing skills. Her autobiography identified her early experiments in medicine was based on imitating her mother by ministering to a doll, then progressing to pets before helping her mother to treat humans.

Seacole was proud of her Scottish ancestry and called herself a Creole, a term which was commonly used in a racially neutral sense or to refer to the children of white settlers.
In her autobiography The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole; she records her bloodline as "I am a Creol, and have good Scots blood coursing through my veins. My father was a soldier of an old Scottish family.". Legally, she was classified as a mulatto
Mulatto
Mulatto denotes a person with one white parent and one black parent, or more broadly, a person of mixed black and white ancestry. Contemporary usage of the term varies greatly, and the broader sense of the term makes its application rather subjective, as not all people of mixed white and black...

, a multiracial
Multiracial
The terms multiracial and mixed-race describe people whose ancestries come from multiple races. Unlike the term biracial, which often is only used to refer to having parents or grandparents of two different races, the term multiracial may encompass biracial people but can also include people with...

 person with limited political rights. Robinson speculates that she may technically have been a quadroon
Quadroon
Quadroon, and the associated words octoroon and quintroon are terms that, historically, were applied to define the ancestry of people of mixed-race, generally of African and Caucasian ancestry, but also, within Australia, to those of Aboriginal and Caucasian ancestry...

. Seacole emphasises her personal vigour in her autobiography, distancing herself from the contemporary stereotype of the "lazy Creole", yet she was "proud of [her] relationship" with black American slaves demonstrated by the "few shades deeper brown upon [her] skin".

The West Indies was an outpost of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 in the late 18th century and in 1789, one fifth of Britain's foreign trade was with the British West Indies; this increased to a third in the 1790s. Britain's economic interests were protected by a massive military presence, with 69 line infantry regiments serving there from 1793 to 1801, and another 24 from 1803 to 1815.

Seacole spent some years in the household of an elderly woman, whom she called her "kind patroness", before returning to her mother. She was treated as a member of her patroness's family and received a good education. As the educated daughter of a Scottish officer and a free black woman with a respectable business, Seacole would have held a high position in Jamaican society.

In about 1821 Seacole visited London, staying for a year, and visited relatives, the merchant Henriques family. Although London had a significant population of black people, she records that a companion, a West Indian with skin darker than her own "dusky" shades, was taunted by children. Seacole herself was "only a little brown", nearly white according to Ramdin. She returned to London approximately a year later, bringing a "large stock of West Indian pickles and preserves for sale". Her later travels would be as an "unprotected" woman, without a chaperone or sponsor, an unusual practice. Seacole returned to Jamaica in 1825.

In the Caribbean, 1826–51

After returning to Jamaica, Seacole nursed her "old indulgent patroness" through an illness, finally returning to the family home at Blundell Hall after the death of her patroness a few years later. Seacole then worked alongside her mother, occasionally being called to assist at the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 hospital at Up-Park Camp
Up-Park Camp
Up-Park Camp was the headquarters of the British Army in Jamaica from the late 18th century to independence in 1962. From that date, is has been the headquarters of the Jamaica Defence Force. It is located in the heart of Kingston.The mortality rate of British soldiers in Jamaica was very high,...

. During this period she travelled around the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, visiting the English colony of New Providence
New Providence
New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas, containing more than 70% of the total population. It also houses the national capital city, Nassau.The island was originally under Spanish control following Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World, but the Spanish government showed...

 in The Bahamas
The Bahamas
The Bahamas , officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is a nation consisting of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets . It is located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba and Hispaniola , northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and southeast of the United States...

, the Spanish colony of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, and new republic of Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

. Seacole records these travels, but omits mention of significant current events, such as the Christmas Rebellion
Baptist War
The Baptist War, also known as the Christmas Uprising and the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831–32, was a 10-day rebellion that mobilized as many as 60,000 of Jamaica's 300,000 slave population...

 in Jamaica of 1831, the partial abolition of slavery in 1834, or the full abolition of slavery in 1838.

She married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole in Kingston on 10 November 1836. Her marriage from betrothal to widowhood is described in just nine lines at the conclusion of the first chapter of her autobiography. His middle names are intriguing: Robinson reports the legend in the Seacole family that Edwin was an illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

 and his mistress Emma, Lady Hamilton
Emma, Lady Hamilton
Emma, Lady Hamilton is best remembered as the mistress of Lord Nelson and as the muse of George Romney. She was born Amy Lyon in Ness near Neston, Cheshire, England, the daughter of a blacksmith, Henry Lyon, who died when she was two months old...

, who was adopted by Thomas, a local "surgeon, apothecary and man midwife". Seacole's will indicates that Horatio Seacole was Nelson's godson
Godparent
A godparent, in many denominations of Christianity, is someone who sponsors a child's baptism. A male godparent is a godfather, and a female godparent is a godmother...

; she left a diamond ring to her friend, Lord Rokeby
Henry Montagu, 6th Baron Rokeby
General Henry Robinson-Montague, 6th Baron Rokeby GCB was a British soldier.-Military career:Born the son of the 4th Baron, Rokeby was commissioned into the 3rd Foot Guards in 1814. He fought at the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.He fought in the Crimean War as...

, "given to my late husband by his Godfather Viscount Nelson", although there was no mention of this godson in Nelson's will or its codicils
Codicil (will)
A codicil is a document that amends, rather than replaces, a previously executed will. Amendments made by a codicil may add or revoke small provisions , or may completely change the majority, or all, of the gifts under the will...

. Edwin was a merchant and seems to have had a poor constitution. The newly married couple moved to Black River
Black River, Jamaica
Black River is the capital of St. Elizabeth Parish, in southwestern Jamaica. It sits at the mouth of the river of the same name. Once a thriving sugar port, it is today a centre of environmental tourism and a gateway to the Treasure Beach resort area; Treasure Beach and Crane Beach are to the...

 and opened a provisions store, which failed to prosper. They returned to Blundell Hall in the early 1840s.

During 1843 and 1844, Seacole suffered a series of personal disasters. She and her family lost much of the boarding house
Boarding house
A boarding house, is a house in which lodgers rent one or more rooms for one or more nights, and sometimes for extended periods of weeks, months and years. The common parts of the house are maintained, and some services, such as laundry and cleaning, may be supplied. They normally provide "bed...

 in a fire in Kingston on 29 August 1843. Blundell Hall burned down, and was replaced by New Blundell Hall, which was described as "better than before". Then her husband died in October 1844, followed by her mother. After a period of grief, in which Seacole says she did not stir for days, she composed herself, "turned a bold front to fortune", and assumed the management of her mother's hotel. She put her rapid recovery down to her hot Creole blood, blunting the "sharp edge of [her] grief" sooner than Europeans who "nurse their woe secretly in their hearts". She absorbed herself into work, declining many offers of marriage. She later became widely known and respected, particularly amongst the European military visitors to Jamaica who often stayed at Blundell Hall. She treated patients in the cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 epidemic of 1850, which killed some 32,000 Jamaicans. Seacole attributed the outbreak to infection brought on a steamer from New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

, demonstrating knowledge of contagion
Infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...

 theory. This first-hand experience benefited her in the following five years.

In Central America, 1851–54

In 1850, Seacole's half-brother Edward moved to Cruces, Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, then part of New Granada
Republic of New Granada
The Republic of New Granada was a centralist republic consisting primarily of present-day Colombia and Panama with smaller portions of today's Ecuador, and Venezuela. It was created after the dissolution in 1830 of Gran Colombia. It was later abolished in 1858 when the Granadine Confederation was...

. There, approximately 45 miles (72 km) up the Chagres River
Chagres River
The Chagres River is a river in central Panama. The central part of the river is dammed by the Gatun Dam and forms Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal. Upstream lies the Madden Dam, creating the Alajuala Lake that is also part of the Canal water system...

 from the coast, he followed the family trade by establishing the Independent Hotel to accommodate the many travellers between the east coast and west coasts of the United States. The number of travellers had increased due to the 1849 California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

. Cruces was the limit of navigability of the Chagres River during the rainy season, from June to December. Travellers would ride on donkeys approximately 20 miles (32 km) along the Las Cruces trail from Panama City
Panama City
Panama is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Panama. It has a population of 880,691, with a total metro population of 1,272,672, and it is located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, in the province of the same name. The city is the political and administrative center of the...

 on the Pacific Ocean coast to Cruces, and then 45 miles (72 km) downriver to the Atlantic Ocean at Chagres
Chagres
Chagres, a village of the Republic of Panama in the Colón Province. It has a harbour from 10 to I ~ ft. deep, which is difficult to enter. The port was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, and was opened for traffic with Panama, on the Pacific coast, by way of the Chagres River, in the 16th...

 (or vice versa). In the dry season, the river subsided, and travellers would switch from land to the river a few miles further downstream, at Gorgona. Most of these settlements have now been submerged by Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake is a large artificial lake situated in the Republic of Panama; it forms a major part of the Panama Canal, carrying ships for of their transit across the Isthmus of Panama....

, formed as part of the Panama Canal
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

.

In 1851 Seacole travelled to Cruces to visit her brother, but shortly after her arrival the town was struck by cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, a disease which had reached Panama in 1849. Seacole was on hand to treat the first victim, who survived, establishing Seacole's reputation and bringing her a succession of patients as the infection spread. The rich paid, but she treated the poor for free. However many, both rich and poor, succumbed. She eschewed opium
Opium
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy . Opium contains up to 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade. The latex also includes codeine and non-narcotic alkaloids such as papaverine, thebaine and noscapine...

, preferring mustard
Mustard plant
Mustards are several plant species in the genera Brassica and Sinapis whose small mustard seeds are used as a spice and, by grinding and mixing them with water, vinegar or other liquids, are turned into the condiment known as mustard or prepared mustard...

 rubs and poultice
Poultice
A poultice, also called cataplasm, is a soft moist mass, often heated and medicated, that is spread on cloth over the skin to treat an aching, inflamed, or painful part of the body. It can be used on wounds such as cuts...

s, laxative
Laxative
Laxatives are foods, compounds, or drugs taken to induce bowel movements or to loosen the stool, most often taken to treat constipation. Certain stimulant, lubricant, and saline laxatives are used to evacuate the colon for rectal and/or bowel examinations, and may be supplemented by enemas under...

 calomel (mercuric chloride
Mercury(I) chloride
Mercury chloride is the chemical compound with the formula Hg2Cl2. Also known as calomel or mercurous chloride, this dense white or yellowish-white, odorless solid is the principal example of a mercury compound...

), sugars of lead (lead(II) acetate
Lead(II) acetate
Lead acetate , also known as lead acetate, lead diacetate, plumbous acetate, sugar of lead, lead sugar, salt of Saturn, and Goulard's powder, is a white crystalline chemical compound with a sweetish taste. It is made by treating lead oxide with acetic acid. Like other lead compounds, it is toxic...

), and rehydration with water boiled with cinnamon
Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods...

. While her preparations had moderate success, she faced little competition—the only other treatments came from a "timid little dentist", who was an inexperienced doctor sent by the Panamanian government, and the Catholic Church.
The epidemic raged through the population; Seacole later expressed exasperation at their feeble resistance, claiming they "bowed down before the plague in slavish despair". She performed an autopsy
Autopsy
An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy , autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present...

 on an orphan child for whom she had cared, giving her "decidedly useful" new knowledge to put to good use. Towards the end of the epidemic, Seacole herself sickened but survived. Cholera was to return again: Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 passed through Cruces in July 1852 on military duty. A hundred and twenty men, a third of his party, died of the disease there or shortly afterwards en route to Panama City.

Despite the problems of disease and climate, Panama remained the favoured route between the coasts of the United States. Seeing a business opportunity, Seacole opened the British Hotel, and although this was more of a restaurant than an hotel, she seems to have had a problem with her clientele as it is recorded she struggled to keep the rowdy travellers under control.

As the wet season ended in early 1852, Seacole joined other traders in Cruces in packing up to move to Gorgona. She records an American giving a speech at a leaving dinner in which he wished "God bless the best yaller woman he ever made" and asked the listeners to join with him in rejoicing that "she's so many shades removed from being entirely black”. He went on to say that "if we could bleach her by any means we would [...] and thus make her acceptable in any company as she deserves to be". Seacole was incensed: in her reply, she said that she would have been just as happy to have a complexion "as dark as any nigger's", and wished for "the general reformation of American manners". Salih notes the use of American pidgin
Pidgin
A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the...

, against Seacole's clear English, as representational of a supposed white moral and intellectual superiority.
Seacole also comments on the positions of responsibility taken on by escaped American slaves in Panama, in the priesthood, the army and public offices, commenting that "it is wonderful to see how freedom and equality elevate men". She also records an antipathy between the Panamanians and Americans, which she attributes in part to so many of the former once being slaves of the latter.

In Gorgona, Seacole established a women-only hotel and continued to treat the sick. In late 1852 she travelled home to Jamaica, but the journey was delayed and difficult as she encountered racial prejudice when trying to book on to an American ship; she was forced to wait for a later British boat. Soon after arriving home, Seacole was asked by the Jamaican medical authorities to minister to victims of a severe outbreak of yellow fever
Yellow fever
Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease. The virus is a 40 to 50 nm enveloped RNA virus with positive sense of the Flaviviridae family....

 in 1853. She went on to organise a nursing service for the hospital at Up-Park Camp, about a mile (1.6 km) from Kingston
Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston is the capital and largest city of Jamaica, located on the southeastern coast of the island. It faces a natural harbour protected by the Palisadoes, a long sand spit which connects the town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport to the rest of the island...

, composed of fellow Afro-Caribbean "doctresses" who seemed to be largely immune to the disease.

Seacole returned to Panama in early 1854 to finalise her business affairs, and three months later moved to the New Granada Mining Gold Company establishment at Fort Bowen Mine some 70 miles (112 km) away near Escribanos to provide medical support. The superintendent, Thomas Day, was a relative of her late husband. Seacole had read newspaper reports of the outbreak of war against Russia before she left Jamaica, and news of the escalating Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 reached Seacole in Panama where she determined to travel to England to volunteer as a nurse, to experience the "pomp, pride and circumstance of glorious war" as she described it in Chapter I of her autobiography.

Crimean War, 1854–56

The Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 lasted from October 1853 until 1 April 1856 and was fought between the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and an alliance of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, France
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

, the Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia
The Kingdom of Sardinia consisted of the island of Sardinia first as a part of the Crown of Aragon and subsequently the Spanish Empire , and second as a part of the composite state of the House of Savoy . Its capital was originally Cagliari, in the south of the island, and later Turin, on the...

, and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. The majority of the conflict took place on the Crimean peninsula
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

.

Many thousands of troops from all of the countries involved were drafted to the area, and disease broke out almost immediately. Hundreds perished, mostly from cholera. Hundreds more would die waiting to be shipped out, or on the voyage; their prospects were little better when they arrived at the poorly staffed, unsanitary and overcrowded hospitals which were the only medical provision for those wounded. In Britain, a trenchant letter in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

on 14 October triggered Sidney Herbert
Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea
Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea PC was an English statesman and a close ally and confidante of Florence Nightingale.-Early life:...

, Secretary of State for War
Secretary of State for War
The position of Secretary of State for War, commonly called War Secretary, was a British cabinet-level position, first held by Henry Dundas . In 1801 the post became that of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The position was re-instated in 1854...

, to approach Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

 to form a detachment of nurses to be sent to the hospital to save lives. Interviews were quickly held, suitable candidates selected, and Nightingale left for Turkey on 21 October.

Seacole travelled from Navy Bay, in Panama, to England, bringing letters of recommendation from doctors in Jamaica and Panama. On arrival she approached the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

, asking to be sent to Crimea as an army nurse, but failed to secure an interview. She was told to see the Quartermaster general
Quartermaster general
A Quartermaster general is the staff officer in charge of supplies for a whole army.- The United Kingdom :In the United Kingdom, the Quartermaster-General to the Forces is one of the most senior generals in the British Army...

, and then the Medical Department, but was rebuffed at each turn. Seacole was then becoming concerned about the racial prejudices that she had experienced at the hands of Americans which could be taking root in Britain. She began to realise that she would not be employed even if there were a vacancy. Records survive which indicate that other black women suffered the same fate Undaunted, Seacole applied to the Crimean Fund, a fund raised by public subscription to support the wounded in Crimea, for sponsorship to travel to Crimea, but again she was met with refusal.

Seacole finally resolved to travel to Crimea using her own resources, in order to open the British Hotel. Business card
Business card
Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual. They are shared during formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card typically includes the giver's name, company affiliation and contact information such as street addresses, telephone...

s were printed and sent on to announce her imminent arrival and intention to open "a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers". Shortly afterwards, her Caribbean acquaintance, Thomas Day, arrived unexpectedly in London, and the two formed a partnership. They assembled a stock of supplies, and Seacole embarked on the Dutch screw-steamer Hollander on 27 January 1855 on its maiden voyage, to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. The ship called at Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 where Seacole encountered a doctor who had recently left Scutari
Üsküdar
Üsküdar is a large and densely populated municipality of Istanbul, Turkey, on the Anatolian shore of the Bosphorus. It is bordered on the north by Beykoz, on the east by Ümraniye, on the southeast by Ataşehir, on the south by Kadıköy, and on the west by the Bosphorus, with the areas of Beşiktaş,...

. He wrote her a letter of introduction
Letter of introduction
The letter of introduction, along with the visiting card, was an important part of polite social interaction in the 18th and 19th centuries. It remains important in formal situations, such as an ambassador presenting his credentials, and in certain business circles.In general, a person would not...

 to Nightingale. On arriving in the Pera
Beyoglu
Beyoğlu is a district located on the European side of İstanbul, Turkey, separated from the old city by the Golden Horn...

, the port of Constantinople, she took a caicque
Caicque
A caicque is a light Turkish rowboat.Kayik is a general term, covering numerous types of rowboats in Turkish naval history. There were different types used mainly in old capital city Istanbul's naval transport...

 across the Bosporus
Bosporus
The Bosphorus or Bosporus , also known as the Istanbul Strait , is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with the Dardanelles...

 to visit Nightingales's hospital in Scutari where she encountered amongst the patients many familiar faces from the West Indies. At her meeting with Nightingale once again her offer of help was refused. After transferring most of her stores to the transport ship Albatross, with the remainder following on the Nonpareil, she set out on the four-day voyage to the British bridgehead into Crimea at Balaclava
Balaklava
Balaklava is a former city on the Crimean peninsula and part of the city of Sevastopol which carries a special administrative status in Ukraine. It was a city in its own right until 1957 when it was formally incorporated into the municipal borders of Sevastopol by the Soviet government...

.

Returning to Balaclava, lacking proper building materials, Seacole gathered abandoned metal and wood in her spare moments, with a view to using the debris to build her hotel. She found a site for the hotel at a place she christened Spring Hill, near Kadikoi
Kadikoi
Kadikoi in the 19th century was a village on the Crimean peninsula, in Ukraine, about 1 mile north of Balaklava. The Battle of Balaclava was fought on the hills and valleys to the north of Kadikoi in 1854. The village was later known as Kadykovka , and Pryhorodne...

, some 3½ miles (5.6 km) along the main British supply road from Balaclava to the British camp near Sevastopol
Sevastopol
Sevastopol is a city on rights of administrative division of Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 . Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa....

, and within a mile of the British headquarters.

The hotel was built from the salvaged driftwood, packing cases, and iron sheets, and salvaged architectural items—glass-doors and window-frames—from the village of Kamara, using hired local labour . The new British Hotel opened in March 1855. An early visitor was Alexis Soyer
Alexis Soyer
Alexis Benoist Soyer was a French chef who became the most celebrated cook in Victorian England. He also tried to alleviate suffering of the Irish poor in the Great Irish Famine , and improve the food provided to British soldiers in the Crimean War.-Biography:Alexis Benoist Soyer was born at...

, a noted French chef who had travelled to Crimea to help improve the diet of British soldiers. He recorded their meeting and describes Seacole as "an old dame of a jovial appearance, but a few shades darker than the white lily". The hotel was completed in July at a total cost of £800. It included a building made of iron, containing a main room with counters and shelves and storage above, an attached kitchen, two wooden sleeping huts, outhouses, and an enclosed stable yard. The building was stocked with provisions shipped from London and Constantinople, and local purchases from the British camp near Kadikoi and the French camp at nearby Kamiesch. Seacole sold anything "from a needle to an anchor" to army officers and visiting sightseers. Meals were served at the Hotel, cooked by a black cook and the kitchen also provided outside catering. Many of Seacole's customers purchased goods on credit, causing problems later. Despite constant thefts, particularly of livestock, Seacole's establishment prospered. Opening six days a week and closing Sundays, she settled into a routine of opening early, serving morning coffee to passing travellers, and then dealing with callers’ medical complaints, before travelling out herself to visit casualties. The Special Correspondent of The Times newspaper wrote approvingly of her work:“...Mrs. Seacole...doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow’s blessings.”

Florence Nightingale was ambivalent about the actions of Seacole, although she did little to express her disapproval overtly. The British Hotel charged for its services, supplied alcohol, and was open to visiting tourists as well as soldiers, leading Nightingale to later accuse Seacole of running an establishment that was little better than a brothel
Brothel
Brothels are business establishments where patrons can engage in sexual activities with prostitutes. Brothels are known under a variety of names, including bordello, cathouse, knocking shop, whorehouse, strumpet house, sporting house, house of ill repute, house of prostitution, and bawdy house...

. Some years later corresponding to her brother-in-law Sir Harry Verney in 1870 she wrote that Seacole "kept—I will not call it a 'bad house'—but something not very unlike it—in the Crimean War [...] She was very kind to the men &, what is more, to the Officers—& did some good—& made many drunk." Worse, a second letter went further, stating that Seacole was a "woman of bad character" who kept "a bad house" (meaning a brothel). Robinson considers this charge unfounded and based on Nightingale's belief in her social superiority. Indeed, Nightingale sent nurses to assist at the Land Transport Hospital, close to Seacole's Hotel's nursing establishment, and further letters record her efforts to avoid association between her nurses and Seacole. However, a letter from John Hall
John Hall (doctor)
Sir John Hall was a British military surgeon.Studying at Guy's Hospital and St Thomas's Hospital, he joined the Army Medical Service in June 1815, being posted to Flanders just in time for the final stages of the Waterloo campaign...

, Inspector General of Hospitals, dated 30 June 1856, records his gratitude for Seacole's assistance at the hospital. Recently, the biographer Mark Bostridge has published evidence in his book Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend which shows that Nightingale did recognise, as Alexis Soyer claimed, that Seacole 'had done a great deal of good for the poor soldiers'. When Seacole faced bankruptcy after the war, Nightingale was an anonymous donor to Seacole's Testimonial Fund.

Seacole often went out to the troops as a sutler
Sutler
A sutler or victualer is a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp or in quarters. The sutler sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent, allowing them to travel along with an army or to remote military outposts...

, selling her provisions near the British camp at Kadikoi, and attending to casualties brought out from the trenches around Sevastopol or from the Tchernaya valley. She was widely known to the British Army as "Mother Seacole".

Seacole often visited Cathcart's Hill, some 3½ miles (5.6 km) north of the British Hotel and overlooking the valley of the Tchernaya to the east and the trenches leading up to Sevastopol a further 2 miles (3 km) to the north, a vantage point to view the hostilities. On one occasion, attending wounded troops under fire she dislocated her right thumb, an injury which never healed entirely. In a dispatch written on 14 September 1855, William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell was an Irish reporter with The Times, and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents, after he spent 22 months covering the Crimean War including the Charge of the Light Brigade.-Career:As a young reporter, Russell reported on a brief military...

, special correspondent of The Times wrote that she was a "warm and successful physician, who doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded and has earned many a poor fellow's blessing." Russell also wrote that she "redeemed the name of sutler", and another that she was "both a Miss Nightingale and a [chef]". Seacole made a point of wearing brightly coloured, and highly conspicuous, clothing—often bright blue, or yellow, with ribbons in contrasting colours. While Lady Alicia Blackwood later recalled that Seacole had "... personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as could comfort or alleviate the suffering of those around her; freely giving to such as could not pay ...".

In late August, Seacole was on the route to Cathcart's Hill for the final assault on Sevastopol on 7 September 1855. French troops led the storming, but the British were beaten back. By dawn on Sunday 9 September, the city was burning out of control, and it was clear that it had fallen: the Russians retreated to fortifications to the north of the harbour. Later in the day Seacole fulfilled a bet, and became the first woman to enter Sevastopol after it fell. Having obtained a pass she toured the broken town bearing refreshments and visiting the crowded hospital by the docks, containing thousands of dead and dying Russians. Her foreign appearance led to her being stopped by French looters, but she was rescued by a passing officer. She liberated some items from the city, including a church bell, an altar candle, and a 3-metre (10 ft) long painting of the Madonna
Madonna (art)
Images of the Madonna and the Madonna and Child or Virgin and Child are pictorial or sculptured representations of Mary, Mother of Jesus, either alone, or more frequently, with the infant Jesus. These images are central icons of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity where Mary remains...

.

After the fall of Sevastopol, hostilities continued in a desultory fashion. The business of Seacole and Day prospered in the interim period, with the soldiers taking the opportunity to enjoy themselves in the quieter days. There were theatrical performances and horse racing events for which Seacole provided catering.

Seacole was joined by a young relative, a 14-year-old girl, Sarah, also known as Sally. Soyer described her as "the Egyptian beauty, Mrs Seacole's daughter Sarah", with blue eyes and dark hair. Nightingale alleged that Sarah was the illegitimate offspring of Seacole and Colonel Henry Bunbury. However, there is no evidence that Bunbury met Seacole, or even visited Jamaica, at a time when she would have been nursing her ailing husband. Ramdin speculates that Thomas Day could have been Sarah's father, pointing to the unlikely coincidences of their meeting in Panama and then in England, and their unusual business partnership in Crimea.

Peace talks began in Paris in early 1856, and friendly relations opened between the Allies and the Russians, with a lively trade across the River Tchernaya. The Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1856)
The Treaty of Paris of 1856 settled the Crimean War between Russia and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, Second French Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The treaty, signed on March 30, 1856 at the Congress of Paris, made the Black Sea neutral territory, closing it to all...

 was signed on 30 March 1856, after which the soldiers left Crimea. Seacole was in a difficult financial position, her Hotel was full of unsalable provisions, new goods were arriving daily, and creditors were demanding payment. She attempted to sell as much as possible before the soldiers left, but she was forced to auction many expensive goods for lower-than-expected prices to the Russians who were returning to their homes. The evacuation of the Allied armies was formally completed at Balaclava on 9 July 1856, with Seacole "... conspicuous in the foreground ... dressed in a plaid riding-habit ...". Seacole was one of the last to leave Crimea, returning to England "poorer than [she] left it".

Back in London, 1856–60

After the end of the war, Seacole returned to England destitute and in poor health. In the conclusion to her autobiography, she records that she "took the opportunity" to visit "yet other lands" on her return journey, although Robinson attributes this to her impecunious state requiring a roundabout trip. She arrived in August 1856, and considered setting up shop with Day in Aldershot
Aldershot
Aldershot is a town in the English county of Hampshire, located on heathland about southwest of London. The town is administered by Rushmoor Borough Council...

, Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

, but nothing materialised. She attended a celebratory dinner for 2,000 soldiers at Royal Surrey Gardens
Royal Surrey Gardens
Royal Surrey Gardens were pleasure gardens in Kennington, London in the Victorian period, slightly east of The Oval. The gardens occupied about to the east side of Kennington Road, including a lake of about . It was the site of Surrey Zoological Gardens and Surrey Music Hall.The gardens were the...

 in Kennington
Kennington
Kennington is a district of South London, England, mainly within the London Borough of Lambeth, although part of the area is within the London Borough of Southwark....

 on 25 August 1856, at which Nightingale was chief guest of honour. Reports in The Times on 26 August and News of the World
News of the World
The News of the World was a national red top newspaper published in the United Kingdom from 1843 to 2011. It was at one time the biggest selling English language newspaper in the world, and at closure still had one of the highest English language circulations...

on 31 August indicate that Seacole was also fêted by the huge crowds, with two "burly" sergeants protecting her from the pressure of the crowd. However, creditors who had supplied her firm in Crimea were in pursuit. She was forced to move to 1, Tavistock Street, Covent Garden
Covent Garden
Covent Garden is a district in London on the eastern fringes of the West End, between St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It is associated with the former fruit and vegetable market in the central square, now a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House, which is also known as...

 in increasingly dire financial straits. The Bankruptcy Court in Basinghall Street declared her bankrupt
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

 on 7 November 1856. Robinson speculates that Seacole's business problems may have been caused in part by her partner, Day, who dabbled in horse trading
Horse trading
In the original sense, Horse trading is the buying and selling of horses, also called "Horse Dealing". Due to the difficulties in evaluating the merits of a horse offered for sale, the selling of horses offered great opportunities for dishonesty...

 and may have set up as an unofficial bank, cashing debts.

At about this time, Seacole began to wear military medals. These are mentioned in an account of her appearance in the bankruptcy court in November 1856. A bust by George Kelly, based on an original by Count Gleichen
Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Admiral Victor Ferdinand Franz Eugen Gustaf Adolf Constantin Friedrich of Hohenlohe-Langenburg GCB , also known as Count Gleichen, was an officer in the Royal Navy, and a sculptor.-Biography:...

 from around 1871, depicts her wearing four medals, three of which have been identified as the British Crimea Medal
Crimea Medal
The Crimea Medal was a campaign medal approved in 1854, for issue to officers and men of British units which fought in the Crimean War of 1854-56 against Russia....

, the French Légion d'honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

 and the Turkish Order of the Medjidie
Medjidie
Medjidie or Mejidie is the name of a military and knightly order of the Ottoman Empire. The Order was instituted in 1851 by Sultan Abdülmecid I.-Order of the Medjidie:...

 medal. Robinson says that one is "apparently" a Sardinian award (Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

 having joined Britain and France in supporting Turkey against Russia in the war). The Jamaican Daily Gleaner
Daily Gleaner
The Daily Gleaner may refer to:*The Daily Gleaner - a newspaper published in New Brunswick, Canada*The Daily Gleaner , published by the Gleaner Company, a daily newspaper and publishing company in Kingston, Jamaica...

stated in her obituary on 9 June 1881 that she had also received a Russian medal, but it has not been identified. However, no formal notice of her award exists in the London Gazette
London Gazette
The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published...

, and it seems unlikely that Seacole was formally rewarded for her actions in Crimea: rather, she may have bought miniature or "dress" medals to display her support and affection for her "sons" in the Army.

Seacole's plight was highlighted in the British press. As a consequence a fund was set up to which many prominent people donated money, and on 30 January 1857, she and Day were granted certificates discharging them from bankruptcy. Day left for the Antipodes to seek new opportunities, but Seacole's funds remained low. She moved from Tavistock Street to cheaper lodgings in 14 Soho Square in early 1857, triggering a plea for subscriptions from Punch on 2 May.

Further fund-raising kept Seacole in the public eye. In May 1857 she wanted to travel to India, to minister to the wounded of the Indian Rebellion of 1857
Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company's army on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to...

, but she was dissuaded by both the new Secretary of War, Lord Panmure
Fox Maule-Ramsay, 11th Earl of Dalhousie
Fox Maule-Ramsay, 11th Earl of Dalhousie KT, GCB, PC , known as Fox Maule before 1852, as The Lord Panmure between 1852 and 1860 and as Earl of Dalhousie after 1860, was a British politician.-Background:...

, and her financial troubles. Fund-raising activities included the "Seacole Fund Grand Military Festival" which was held at the Royal Surrey Gardens
Royal Surrey Gardens
Royal Surrey Gardens were pleasure gardens in Kennington, London in the Victorian period, slightly east of The Oval. The gardens occupied about to the east side of Kennington Road, including a lake of about . It was the site of Surrey Zoological Gardens and Surrey Music Hall.The gardens were the...

, from Monday 27 July to Thursday 30 July 1857. This successful event was supported by many military men, including Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Lord Rokeby (who had commanded the 1st Division in Crimea) and Lord George Paget: over 1,000 artists performed, including 11 military bands and an orchestra conducted by Louis Antoine Jullien
Louis Antoine Jullien
Louis Antoine Jullien was a French conductor and composer of light music.Jullien was born in Sisteron, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and was baptised Louis George Maurice Adolphe Roche Albert Abel Antonio Alexandre Noë Jean Lucien Daniel Eugène Joseph-le-brun Joseph-Barême Thomas Thomas Thomas-Thomas...

, which was attended by a crowd of circa 40,000. The one shilling entrance charge was quintupled for the first night, and halved for the Tuesday performance. However, production costs had been high and the Royal Surrey Gardens Company was itself having financial problems. It became insolvent immediately after the festival, and as a result Seacole only received £
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

57, one quarter of the profits from the event. When eventually the financial affairs of the ruined Company were resolved, in March 1858, the Indian Mutiny was over.

A 200-page autobiographical account of her travels was published in July 1857 by James Blackwood as Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, the first autobiography written by a black woman in Britain. Priced at one shilling and six pence (1/6) a copy, the cover bears a striking portrait of Seacole in red, yellow and black ink. Robinson speculates that she dictated the work to an editor, identified in the book only as W.J.S., who improved her grammar and orthography. In the work Seacole deals with the first 39 years of her life in one short chapter. She then expands six chapters on her few years in Panama, before using the following 12 chapters to detail her exploits in Crimea. She avoids mention of the names of her parents and precise date of birth. A short final "Conclusion" deals with her return to England, and lists supporters of her fund-raising effort, including Rokeby, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar
Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar
Prince William Augustus Edward of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, KP, GCB, GCH, GCVO, PC was a British military officer of German parents.-Life:...

, the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

, the Duke of Newcastle
Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne
Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne KG was a British nobleman and politician who played a leading part in British politics in the late 1820s and early 1830s.-Early life:...

, William Russell, and other prominent men in the military. The book was dedicated to Major-General Lord Rokeby, commander of the First Division; and William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell was an Irish reporter with The Times, and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents, after he spent 22 months covering the Crimean War including the Charge of the Light Brigade.-Career:As a young reporter, Russell reported on a brief military...

 wrote as a preface
Preface
A preface is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword and precedes an author's preface...

, "I have witnessed her devotion and her courage ... and I trust that England will never forget one who has nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead."

Later life, 1860–81

Seacole had joined the Roman Catholic Church circa 1860, and returned to a Jamaica changed in her absence as Jamaica faced economic downturn. She became a prominent figure in the country. However, by 1867 she was again running short of money, and the Seacole fund was resurrected in London, with illustrious new patrons, including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, and many other senior military officers. The fund burgeoned, and Seacole was able to buy land on Duke Street in Kingston, near New Blundell Hall, where she built a bungalow
Bungalow
A bungalow is a type of house, with varying meanings across the world. Common features to many of these definitions include being detached, low-rise , and the use of verandahs...

 as her new home plus a larger property to rent out.

By 1870, Seacole was back in London, and Robinson speculates that she was drawn back by the prospect of rendering medical assistance in the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

. It seems likely that she approached Sir Harry Verney
Sir Harry Verney, 2nd Baronet
Sir Harry Verney, 2nd Baronet PC, DL, JP was an English soldier and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons variously between 1832 and 1885.-Background and education:...

 (the husband of Florence Nightingale's sister Parthenope) Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Buckingham
Buckingham (UK Parliament constituency)
Buckingham is a parliamentary constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.-Boundaries:...

 who was closely involved in the British National Society for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded. It was at this time Nightingale wrote her letter to Verney insinuating that Seacole had kept a "bad house" in Crimea, and was responsible for "much drunkenness and improper conduct".

In London, Seacole joined the periphery of the royal circle. Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Admiral Victor Ferdinand Franz Eugen Gustaf Adolf Constantin Friedrich of Hohenlohe-Langenburg GCB , also known as Count Gleichen, was an officer in the Royal Navy, and a sculptor.-Biography:...

, (a nephew of Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

, as young Lieutenant he had been one of her customers in Crimea) carved a marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 bust
Bust (sculpture)
A bust is a sculpted or cast representation of the upper part of the human figure, depicting a person's head and neck, as well as a variable portion of the chest and shoulders. The piece is normally supported by a plinth. These forms recreate the likeness of an individual...

 of her in 1871 which was exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1872. Seacole also became personal masseuse
Massage
Massage is the manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue to enhance function, aid in the healing process, and promote relaxation and well-being. The word comes from the French massage "friction of kneading", or from Arabic massa meaning "to touch, feel or handle"...

 to the Princess of Wales
Alexandra of Denmark
Alexandra of Denmark was the wife of Edward VII of the United Kingdom...

 who suffered with white leg
Thrombosis
Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When a blood vessel is injured, the body uses platelets and fibrin to form a blood clot to prevent blood loss...

 and rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

.

Seacole died in 1881 at her home in Paddington
Paddington
Paddington is a district within the City of Westminster, in central London, England. Formerly a metropolitan borough, it was integrated with Westminster and Greater London in 1965...

, London, the cause of death was noted as "apoplexy
Apoplexy
Apoplexy is a medical term, which can be used to describe 'bleeding' in a stroke . Without further specification, it is rather outdated in use. Today it is used only for specific conditions, such as pituitary apoplexy and ovarian apoplexy. In common speech, it is used non-medically to mean a state...

". She left an estate valued at over £2,500. After some specific legacies, many of exactly 19 guinea
Guinea (British coin)
The guinea is a coin that was minted in the Kingdom of England and later in the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom between 1663 and 1813...

s, the main beneficiary of her will was her sister, Louisa. Lord Rokeby, Colonel Hussey Fane Keane, and Count Gleichen (three trustees of her Fund) were each left £50; Count Gleichen also received a diamond ring, said to have been given to Seacole’s late husband by Lord Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

. A short obituary was published in The Times on 21 May 1881. She was buried in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery is located at Kensal Green in London, and has its own .-History:Established in 1858, the 29 acre site was built next door to the much larger Anglican & Non-Conformist Kensal Green Cemetery...

, Harrow Road, Kensal Green
Kensal Green
Kensal Green, also referred to as Kensal Rise is an area of London, England. It is located on the southern edge of the London Borough of Brent and borders the City of Westminster to the East and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the South....

, London.

Recognition

Whilst well-known at the end of her life, Seacole rapidly faded from public memory. Her work in Crimea was overshadowed by Florence Nightingale's for many years. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in her and efforts to properly acknowledge her achievements. Seacole has become a symbol of racial attitudes and social injustices in Britain during that period. She was quoted as an example of "hidden" black history in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses
The Satanic Verses
The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie's fourth novel, first published in 1988 and inspired in part by the life of Prophet Muhammad. As with his previous books, Rushdie used magical realism and relied on contemporary events and people to create his characters...

, like Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano also known as Gustavus Vassa, was a prominent African involved in the British movement towards the abolition of the slave trade. His autobiography depicted the horrors of slavery and helped influence British lawmakers to abolish the slave trade through the Slave Trade Act of 1807...

: "See, here is Mary Seacole, who did as much in the Crimea as another magic-lamping lady, but, being dark, could scarce be seen for the flame of Florence's candle."
She has been better remembered in the Caribbean, where she was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit
Jamaican Order of Merit
The Order of Merit is part of the Jamaican honours system and is the third highest honour conferred by the nation of Jamaica. The Order of Merit is conferred upon Jamaicans or on distinguished citizen of another country who has achieved eminent international distinction in the field of science,...

 in 1991. The headquarters of the Jamaican General Trained Nurses' Association was christened "Mary Seacole House" in 1954, followed quickly by the naming of a hall of residence of the University of the West Indies
University of the West Indies
The University of the West Indies , is an autonomous regional institution supported by and serving 17 English-speaking countries and territories in the Caribbean: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica,...

 in Mona, Jamaica
Mona, Jamaica
Mona is a neighbourhood in southeastern Saint Andrew Parish, approximately five miles from Kingston, Jamaica. A former sugar plantation, it is the site of a reservoir serving the city of Kingston and of the main campus of the University of the West Indies...

. A ward at Kingston Public Hospital was also named in her memory. Her grave was rediscovered in 1973; a service of reconsecration was held on 20 November 1973, and her impressive gravestone was also restored by the British Commonwealth Nurses' War Memorial Fund and the Lignum Vitae Club. The centenary of her death was celebrated with a memorial service on 14 May 1981. An English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

 blue plaque
Blue plaque
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker....

 was erected by the Greater London Council
Greater London Council
The Greater London Council was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London from 1965 to 1986. It replaced the earlier London County Council which had covered a much smaller area...

 at her residence in 157 George Street, Westminster
Westminster
Westminster is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, southwest of the City of London and southwest of Charing Cross...

, on 9 March 1985, but it was removed in 1998 before the site was redeveloped. A "green plaque" was unveiled at 147 George Street, in Westminster, on 11 October 2005. However, another blue plaque
Blue plaque
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker....

 has since been positioned at another residence, in 14 Soho Square, where she lived in 1857.

21st century

By the 21st century, Seacole was a figure appearing in the National Curriculum, with her life story taught at primary schools in the UK alongside that of Florence Nightingale. A campaign to erect a statue of Seacole in London was launched on 24 November 2003, chaired by MP Clive Soley, Baron Soley
Clive Soley, Baron Soley
Clive Stafford Soley, Baron Soley is a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom.-Early life:He went to Downshall Secondary Modern School on Aldborough Road in Seven Kings near Ilford, then Newbattle Adult Education College in Newbattle, Midlothian, from 1961-3. He did RAF National Service...

 . The design of the sculpture was announced on 18 June 2009, with installation expected within two years.

She was voted into first place in an online poll of 100 Great Black Britons
100 Great Black Britons
The 100 Great Black Britons list was compiled as a response to the BBC's 100 Greatest Britons debate of .Patrick Vernon, founder of black heritage website Every Generation, pointed out that no black people had made it to the top 100, saying that this was due in part to many people being unaware of...

 in 2004.

An annual prize to recognise and develop leadership in nurses, midwives and health visitors in the National Health Service
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

 was named Seacole, to "acknowledge her achievements". and the Home Office
Home Office
The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security, and order. As such it is responsible for the police, UK Border Agency, and the Security Service . It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs,...

 commemorated her in early 2005 by naming part of its new headquarters at 2 Marsham Street
2 Marsham Street
2 Marsham Street London has been the headquarters of the Home Office, a department of the British Government, since March 2005. Before this date the Home Office was located at 50 Queen Anne's Gate.-History:...

 in her honour New buildings at the University of Salford
University of Salford
The University of Salford is a campus university based in Salford, Greater Manchester, England with approximately 20,000 registered students. The main campus is about west of Manchester city centre, on the A6, opposite the former home of the physicist, James Prescott Joule and the Working Class...

 and Birmingham City University
Birmingham City University
Birmingham City University is a British university in the city of Birmingham, England. It is the second largest of three universities in the city, the other two being the Aston University and University of Birmingham...

 have also been named in her honour. There is a Mary Seacole Centre for Nursing Practice at Thames Valley University
Thames Valley University
The University of West London is a public university based in London, United Kingdom, with campuses in Ealing and Brentford, London, and Reading, Berkshire....

 and a Mary Seacole Research Centre at De Montfort University
De Montfort University
De Montfort University is a public research and teaching university situated in the medieval Old Town of Leicester, England, adjacent to the River Soar and the Leicester Castle Gardens...

 in Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

, plus a problem-based learning
Problem-based learning
Problem-based learning is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject in the context of complex, multifaceted, and realistic problems...

 room at St George's, University of London
St George's, University of London
St George's, University of London is a medical school located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

 is named after her. The Mary Seacole Research Centre has recently created the NHS Specialist Library for Ethnicity and Health, a specialist electronic (web-based) library collecting research-based evidence and good practice information relating to the health needs of minority ethnic groups, and other resources relevant to multi-cultural health care. It also carries articles exploring current controversies and the significance of race and ethnic group for health care. There is also a Mary Seacole ward in the Douglas Bader
Douglas Bader
Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL was a Royal Air Force fighter ace during the Second World War. He was credited with 20 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged.Bader joined the...

 Centre in Roehampton
Roehampton
Roehampton is a district in south-west London, forming the western end of the London Borough of Wandsworth. It lies between the town of Barnes to the north, Putney to the east and Wimbledon Common to the south. The Richmond Park golf courses are west of the neighbourhood, and just south of these is...

. Brunel University in West London recently opened the Mary Seacole Building, housing the School of Health Sciences and Social Care.

An exhibition to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth opened at the Florence Nightingale museum in London in March 2005. Originally scheduled to last for a few months, the exhibition was so popular that it was extended to March 2007.

The portrait identified as Seacole in 2005 was used for one of ten first-class stamps showing important Britons, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the National Portrait Gallery.

A statue of her is planned for the grounds of St. Thomas' Hospital in London.

She also makes an appearance on Channel 4 in a schools programme ident. Portrayed in the image by Sylvia Holmes.

Further reading

  • Ziggi Alexander & Audrey Dewjee, Mary Seacole: Jamaican National Heroine and Doctress in the Crimean War, Brent Library Service 1982 (ISBN 0-9503227-5-X p/b)
  • Ziggi Alexander, "Let it Lie Upon the Table: The Status of Black Women's Biography in the UK", Gender & History, Vol. 2 No. 1 Spring 1990, p. 22–33 (ISSN 0953-5233)
  • Elizabeth N Anionwu: A short history of Mary Seacole. A resource for nurses and students, Royal College of Nursing 2005 (ISBN 1-904114-16-4)
  • Mark Bostridge, Florence Nightingale. the Woman and Her Legend, Viking 2008.
  • Mark Bostridge, 'Ministering on Distant Shores', The Guardian, 14 February 2004. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2004/feb/14/featuresreviews.guardianreview18

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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