Mary Seacole: The Boss of Nursing
Do you know the story of Mary Jane Seacole aka the Keeper of the British Hotel?
Mary Seacole was born with Boss levels of curiosity & ambition that would propel her to become the World’s first nurse, a title that is often gifted to Florence Nightingale. However, given colonial peoples propensity to suppress the contributions of Black people throughout history, we are gonna go ahead and drop that crown on the head of Queen Seacole!👑
Seacole was born in 1805 in Kingston Jamaica. Healing was literally in this woman’s DNA. Her father was an officer in the British Army, and her mother was a Jamaican healer whom passed all of her knowledge on to her daughter. Making her one of the few people in the history of the world whose hands you would be blessed to catch.
Seacole’s mother ran Blundell Hall, a boarding home in Jamaica where wounded British military officers would come for medical care. It was in these halls that Queen Seacole began to master the ropes of healing. She was also blessed with the ability to see the practice of western medicine which she would begin to blend with her traditional knowledge.
The practice of traditional Jamaican medicine relied heavily on natural remedies and was anchored in a vast knowledge of tropical disease. Not only were these healers skilled in treating ailments & injuries but they also practiced the use of good hygiene a century before Florence Nightingale. Despite this vast knowledge, Europeans still viewed their work as savage witchcraft.
When Seacole got wind of the Crimean War outbreaking in Europe she immediately knew she had to move to help. However, her convictions to help were met with opposition from the white European establishment that wanted no parts of a Black women amongst their ranks. Florence Nightingale even moved to state that any association between Seacole and her nurses was absolutely out of the question.
However Big Boss energy doesn’t take no for an answer. When the world builds a wall, a boss builds a ladder… or if you’re Mary Seacole you build the British Hotel.
Since the white establishment would not accept Seacole, she took her own money, travelled to Crimea and constructed the British Hotel near the front lines of the war. At the British Hotel Seacole tended to soldiers injured in battle and saved many lives. However, colonial historians tried to overlook her impact by downplaying her contributions to merely serving tea and lemonade.
If revenge is a dish that is best served cold, than tea is a drink that is best served hot and modern historians have begun to spill the real tea on Seacole’s contributions to the world. In 2004 Seacole was voted #1 in a poll of 100 Great Black Britons, and the president of the Royal College of nursing called for the erection of a statue to honor her memory.
As always haters gonna hate and the Florence Nightingale Society objected to the construction of the statue, with their main argument being what they perceived as the embellishment of Seacole's work and reputation, to the detriment of that of Florence Nightingale. However winners also always win and Mary Jane Seacole’s statue was erected in 2016 in the gardens of St. Thomas Hospital.
The statue depicts Seacole in motion to represent her "marching defiantly forward into an oncoming wind, as if confronting head-on some of the personal resistance she had to constantly battle.” Her perpetual march forward even in the face of opposition will forever serve as an inspiration for young girls & boys who dare to dream, defy the status quo, and embrace ADVENTURE!