10 interesting facts you need to know about Florence Nightingale!

Florence Nightingale- Image Source: Wikipedia

Nursing is a noble profession. Meet the woman who is credited as the founder of modern nursing. The woman whose birthday is celebrated globally as ‘International Nurses Day’. Florence Nightingale was a phenomenal woman who educated nurses and strived to improve the standards of nursing, especially during the Crimean war. She was born in Florence Italy, in 1820 and died in London in 1910. She had so much passion for nursing so much that she would write letters to the relatives of soldiers who died, to inform them of the sad news. There was something special and extraordinary about Florence Nightingale and here are some facts about her!

1.     She was a good student; who popularized the pie chart!

Pie chart showing mortality, done by Florence Nightingale. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Florence studied Mathematics, German, French and Italian, with a bit of Latin, classical Greek! She was born to a wealthy British family, her mother was the daughter of merchants and her father being a wealthy landowner. Her father oversaw her education, even taught her Shakespearian literature, philosophy, and mathematics; most of which would later help her in her career. It was she who made the pie chart- which was first used 19 years before her birth-so was much more popular since she used it on her report- The notes on matters affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army’. It was well done with slices of the pie representing different things; red- deaths; blue-preventable diseases and black- other causes. 

2.     She was a nurse by design

After her studies in Germany, she returned to London to take care of sick Governesses; a job she did very well, impressing her bosses who promoted her to the position of superintendent. She also often volunteered at the Middlesex Hospital where she vowed to improve the hygienic conditions of the hospital and reduce deaths, at a time when there was a severe cholera outbreak. 

She is also credited to having trained America’s first trained nurse Linda Richards!

3.     She refused to get married

She went against the norms in her time, choosing to work, study and improve nursing and refusing to get married, to the dismay of many. Richard Monckton Milnes is the man whose proposal Florence turned down in 1849. He had been pursuing her for a while but turned him down saying that she wanted to follow her moral and active nature. She later, in 1850 enrolled at the Institution of the Protestant Deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany. 

4.     She was awarded the order of merit 

When she returned to her home at Lea Hurst after the conflict, she had become a heroin celebration which she tried to avoid. She was recognized by Queen Victoria who presented her with an engraved brooch which became the ‘Nightingale Jewel’ and also got $250, 000 from the British Government. 

She was also conferred the Order of Merit by King Edward in 1907, as well as receiving the Freedom of the City of London in 1908; and just before her death in 1910, she received a congratulatory message from King George. 

5.     She established nursing schools and hospitals 

When she was awarded money by the British government for her achievements, she used the money to set up St Thomas hospital and within it, she built the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. She became a heroine; many women even of noble backgrounds now seeing nursing as a good career, joined nursing schools to continue her legacy. 

6.     A helper from childhood 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Florence grew up in a privileged home; and her parents always threw and attended lavish parties, which Florence was not a fan of. She was just a philanthropic girl. She loved helping the ill and the poor. As she grew up, she realized that nursing was truly her calling and she lived up to it, and at 16, she told her family that her calling was nursing which they were not happy about. You see, back then, nursing was considered a lowly, job, with poor wages and people even said nurses practiced a bit of prostitution and alcoholism! That did not deter her from following her heart’s desires and she turned out to be the pioneer of modern nursing.

7.     Her parents did not support her dreams. 

In the Victorian Era, a lady of Florence’s social standing was supposed to get married to a man who had property, was wealthy and from a similar background. Her parents did not support her dream of becoming a nurse since it was deemed to be among the lowly jobs that did not fit their social status. 

8.     How she got her name ‘The Lady with the Lamp’

Lady with the Lamp oil painting- Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

During the Crimean War when the Allied British and the French forces were fighting the Russian Empire, Florence was called in by the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert to mobilize nurses and head to the war to help the soldiers. She and her nurses left to find a horrific sight at the military hospital; it was dirty, had rodents, no toilets and the soldiers were dying of cholera and typhoid more than their injuries. She set to work, mobilizing people to first clean the hospital from top to bottom while she looked into the sick. In the night, she would walk the corridors of the hospital with a lamp checking her patients hence the name ‘the Lady with the Lamp’ and ‘the Angel of the Crimea’. 

By the time the war ended, she had done such an amazing job, that the hospital’s deaths were reduced by two thirds. She even introduced a library and a classroom at the hospital.

9.     Florence’s sickness and death

Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing- Image Source: Wikipedia

During her time in Scutari, Florence contracted the Crimea Fever a bacterial infection that is usually known as brucellosis. She, never recovered from it; even being bedridden at the age of 38 and never being able to leave home. She however for the rest of her life continued her vocation from her bed while ill, receiving visitors, being consulted on matters nursing and running and management of hospitals and even publishing a book, ‘Notes on Hospital’ at that time. Very determined! She died in 1910 at the age of 90. She was buried at her family farm in England in a private ceremony, just as she had wanted, though she would have been accorded a national funeral. 

10. The Florence Nightingale Museum

The angel of Crimea has a museum set up for her which houses more than 2,000 artifacts, which depict her life and career as a nurse. The museum is located in the place where the original Nightingale School for Nurses had been built. 

Quite an Icon she remains to be!