Mary Seacole passed away in London on the 14th
May 1881. Her passion for what she did reflected in her will, where she left money to a charity for soldiers’ orphans. Mary Seacole did what few other women did in the Victorian age. She travelled, ran a business and went to war. Not forgetting having to battle with both sexual and racial prejudice, being a woman of mixed heritage. Therefore, even though she was technically ‘free’ she would have had few civil rights. She wouldn’t have been able to vote, hold office or enter into professions.
Mary Seacole was proud to be half Scottish and half Jamaican, and never let people’s prejudices affect her doing what was right. She risked her life to help others, even so, for almost 100 years she was forgotten. Her story almost wiped from history, particularly British history. It wasn’t until a number of Jamaican nurses decided to highlight her efforts and name a building after her, that she was remembered again. Mary Seacole helped everyone she met, she mixed medicine with kindness. A true historical black female role model, not just to nurses, but to us all.
A trust has been set up in her name, ‘The Mary Seacole Trust’. The trust originated as the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, established in 2004. The organisation now aims to educate and inform the public about the life, work and achievements of Mary Seacole. Their intention is to build on her legacy by promoting fairness and equality and to diversify leadership in private and public services. They aim to do this by the implementation of their two programmes, as well as developing; the Trust website, an exhibition about Mary Seacole in the Florence Nightingale museum and working with the NHS to increase diversity in Senior management.
Even with all that Seacole did during her lifetime, especially making her mark in British history during the Crimean war, the celebration of her story still comes with some controversy. A 10ft bronze statue of her was unveiled outside St. Thomas hospital in London on the 30th June 2016. Making her the first public statue of a named black woman in the UK. Many opposed this as they did not like the fact that her statue had been placed outside the hospital which is said to have been ‘Florence Nightingale’s turf’. Now many of us especially those educated in Britain have learned about Florence Nightingale, how many were also taught about Mary Seacole? Need we say more? A decision to remove Mary Seacole’s story from the British school’s National Curriculum was made by the British Educational Minister, Michael Gove in 2013. After much uproar and a petition, he was forced to make a U-turn on this decision and instead Seacole’s story has been made more prominent, rightly so! It is evident that Mary Seacole committed her life to helping, caring and giving to those in need, often without payment and without thought of the risks to her own life. Mary Seacole a pioneering nurse and heroine of the Crimean war, Caribbean1st absolutely salutes you.