Row mars unveiling of Mary Seacole statue
Florence Nightingale supporters claim the Mary Seacole statue should not be outside St Thomas' Hospital in London
Plans to honour nursing pioneer Mary Seacole with a statue have come under fire from Florence Nightingale supporters.
Opponents to the statue claim that placing it at St Thomas’ Hospital where Nightingale founded her nursing school is inappropriate as Seacole had no connection to the place.
Seacole should be honoured ‘for her own work, but not at Nightingale’s Hospital’ a group of historians and Nightingale biographers write in a letter to The Times.
Stating that she was not a ‘pioneer of nursing’ the signatories claim that that misinformation has been spread by British institutions ‘taken in by the Seacole campaign’.
Wendy Mathews, who helped set up the Florence Nightingale Museum, was a signatory to the letter as she felt ‘history is being rewritten. She was not a nurse, called herself a doctress and a businesswoman.’
The campaign to erect a statue of Seacole was started 12 years ago, and aims to educate the public on her work.
Chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal Lord Clive Soley stated the statue would provide ‘much needed recognition of the contribution black and ethnic minorities have made throughout British history’.
Vice chair of the appeal Elizabeth Anionwu said the statue was something to celebrate as ‘we have so few nurses recognised, and in particular women, recognised in statues’.
Paid for by donations totalling over £500,000 plus £240,000 from the government, the 3m high bronze statue is being readied for its unveiling on 30 June. It will be the first of a named black woman in the UK.
Full text of letter to The Times:
Fourteen members of the Nightingale Society have joined in raising concern about the promotion of the Mary Seacole Statue at St Thomas' Hospital in London, to be unveiled on 30 June.
False achievements have been attributed to Mrs Seacole, including the claim that she was 'mentioned in dispatches', a military honour for gallantry in battle.
Mrs Seacole's battlefield excursions (three only) took place post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. Mrs Seacole was a kind and generous businesswoman, but was not a frequenter of the battlefield 'under fire' or a pioneer of nursing.
British institutions were taken in by the Seacole campaign: the BBC (it was forced to retract claims made in its Horrible Histories programme); the National Portrait Gallery (which advertises her as a medal-winner); the Department of Health (which gives her credit for Nightingale's achievements as a healthcare pioneer). The chancellor even found £240,000 for the statue.
We would gladly support a Seacole statue, to honour for her own work, but not at Nightingale's hospital.
For a full list of signatories go to thetimes.co.uk/letters