Seacole backlash is ‘storm in a bed pan’

The artist behind the controversial Mary Seacole statue has responded to criticism 

The backlash against the soon to be unveiled Mary Seacole statue is ‘a storm in a bed pan’, according to the artist behind it.

Martin Jennings designed and produced the sculpture of nursing pioneer Seacole, which is set to be unveiled on 30 June at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, and is not surprised by reaction to it.

Martin Jennings, sculptor
Martin Jennings, who designed and produced the statue of Mary Seacole. Picture: Charles Milligan

‘We knew for some years there had been opposition from a self-appointed group called the Nightingale Society and we expected antagonism to reach a zenith just before it was unveiled,’ he told Nursing Standard.

The backlash continued this week when a letter arguing against the statue and signed by a group of historians and Nightingale biographers was published by The Times newspaper.

Inappropriate placing

Opponents to the statue claim placing it at St Thomas’ Hospital, where Nightingale founded her nursing school, is inappropriate because Mrs Seacole had no connection to the place.

Stating that she was not a ‘pioneer of nursing’, the letter states that British institutions ‘taken in by the Seacole campaign’ have spread misinformation.

‘She should not be celebrated for what Florence Nightingale did,’ said Lynn McDonald, one of the signatories of the letter.

There are, however, ‘at least a dozen’ monuments to Miss Nightingale across the country’, said Mr Jennings.

Delusional expectation

‘There seems to be a delusional expectation that a statue of Mary Seacole will somehow dim Florence Nightingale’s lights.

‘I don’t see how this statue will do that’.

Mrs Seacole travelled to Crimea to look after soldiers during the Crimean War, at a similar time to Miss Nightingale. She was voted the greatest black Briton, in a BBC survey in 2004.  

At nearly 5 metres tall, the statue will stand in the grounds of the hospital, facing the Houses of Parliament.

The campaign to erect the statue was started 12 years ago by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal.


Further information:

Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal

Nursing Standard: Row mars unveiling of Mary Seacole statue



This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.