Jamaican Doctress Mary Seacole Was As Heroic As Florence Nightingale

 

Mary Seacole Painting

National Portrait Gallery/Wikimedia CommonsMary Seacole, painted by Albert Charles Challen in 1869.

“War, I know, is a serious game, but sometimes very humble actors are of great use in it,” wrote Mary Seaco

This Jamaican woman was one of these humble actors, saving the lives of many of the thousands of British, French, Turkish, and Russian soldiers sent to fight in the Crimean War in the 1850s. Despite her acts of heroism, however, her name was lost to history for more than a century.

Mary Seacole’s Pre-War Adventures

 

William Simpson/Wikimedia CommonsMary Seacole, sketched by William Simpson in 1855.

Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805, the daughter of a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican “doctress,” a practitioner of Creole healing arts.

Although slavery in Jamaica wouldn’t be abolished for another three decades, Seacole was technically free. But she and her mother had limited civil rights: While they could own property and slaves of their own, they could not vote, hold public office, or enter many professions.

Seacole grew up learning about medicine from her mother, whose skills were reputable within the community of British officers and soldiers stationed in Kingston. From her father, Seacole acquired a passion for war. From an.

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