By Chuck Taylor

Friday is International Nurses Day, so chosen because May 12th is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. And while Nightingale may be considered responsible for modern day nursing, that’s not the only thing we should appreciate about her.

  • She was fluent in English, French, German, and Italian and also had a decent hold on both Latin and classical Greek. Her father, a wealthy Cambridge grad, personally oversaw young Florence’s education. Through him, she learned the basics of everything from mathematics to philosophy to Shakespearean literature.
  • Her parents objected to her becoming a nurse. Nursing didn’t garner much respect back in 1837. It was associated with low social status and rampant alcoholism. Lousy wages also forced many women who entered the field to make ends meet by engaging in a bit of prostitution on the side.
  • She refused to get married! Nightingale turned down multiple proposals, including one made by a cousin named Henry Nicholson.
  • She could often be “observed alone,” checking up on the wounded “with a little lamp in her hand.” Just like that, Nightingale won international acclaim as the benevolent “Lady with the Lamp.”
  • Nightingale sometimes took it upon herself to be the bearer of bad news, writing letters on behalf of patients who had died or were dying.
  • She is credited with popularizing the use of the “pie chart.”
  • Her 1859 book, Notes on Nursing: What it Is and What it Is Not, became one of the profession’s most significant texts, including tips like “Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently.”
  • She became the first woman inducted into the Order of Merit.
  • On July 30, 1890, Nightingale met with one of Thomas Edison’s British representatives and created this brief recording. The proceeds went to assist Crimean War veterans, specifically those who’d fought in the disastrous Battle of Balaclava. Her captured remarks are as follows:

When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale.



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