Seacole statue is a triumph for hope over hate
Monument to Crimean War nurse is an antidote to the hatred unleashed in the wake of the EU referendum
During the RCN congress debate on whether the UK should leave the European Union, prominent college activist Jason Warriner said that nurses would play a vital role in ‘healing the nation’ after the vote, whatever the outcome. Unfortunately his prophecy has proved to be correct, with the UK being divided in way that few of us have experienced before.
Hatred has been unleashed by those who resent diversity, blame immigrants for the nation’s ills and want the country to return to its former self – whatever that is. At the same time, the most fervent supporters of the UK’s membership of the EU are blaming the old, inarticulate and uneducated – to use their labels – for the outcome. It is as if the vote should be given to those of a certain age or academic ability.
In the midst of these divisions, exactly one week after we went to the polls in the referendum, came an event that epitomised the best of British values. After a 13-year fundraising campaign that ran into resistance at every turn, a statue to the Victorian nurse Mary Seacole was unveiled at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Famously, it is the first such monument to a named black woman in the UK. More importantly, as the ceremony’s host and trustee of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal Julie Alexander pointed out on the day, it is a triumph of love over hate: and love will always triumph over hate.
It is also a victory for Elizabeth Anionwu, who has led the appeal campaign with such dignity and distinction. Already a CBE for her pioneering work on sickle cell and thalassaemia, surely even greater honours should be bestowed on this extraordinary nurse.