Do you agree with the view that Mary Seacole , and not Florence Nightingale , was the real ‘angle of mercy’ during the Crimean War? During the Crimean war, both Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale showed aspects of being angels. The word ‘angel’ suggests a heavenly person who is attentive to the soldiers’ needs, and ‘mercy’ means showing kindness and forgiveness, and the ‘angel of mercy’ basically suggests a compassionated and kind-hearted person who empathizes and helps soldiers in need. Although Nightingale had showed the aspects of being an “angel of mercy”, the amount of work and commitment Seacole had put in outweighs Nightingale’s; therefore I believe Mary Seacole deserves the title of the real “angel of mercy”.
Florence Nightingale actions mainly focused on the hygiene and cleanliness, and the organization of the hospital since the majority of the death was due to neglect of sanitation. Source U is a lithograph of one of the wards in the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, where Nightingale was in charge of.
It showed the hospital was clearly clean and organized with windows opened, clean floor, wide space between organized beds, suggesting that the soldiers’ conditions were getting better.
Nightingale was also very hardworking, because even at night she used to walk around the hospital carrying a lamp to check on the patients, hence she is also known as the “The Lady with the Lamp” throughout the history, which shows her commitment in her work as a nurse. She certainly had “formidable gifts of organization” as it says on source V, and her involvement in the war had also made a huge impact on the death rate, which reduced from 42 per 1000 to 2 per 1000 in June 1855. Despite the fall of the death, 5000 men died in her hospital due to poor hygiene in the winter of 1854-1855 before the sanitary commission arrived, yet she refused to acknowledged that it was from the lack of sanitation and said the men were “half dead” when they were brought in, because at that time she didn’t know that the hospital was built on top of a cesspool. On top of that, it was revealed in the letter written by Lord Palmerston to Lord Panmore that the sanitary arrangement was actually done by Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Grainger, and still Nightingale took all the credit.
Even though, Nightingale has made positive impacts on the course of the war and paved a way for improving in the nursing field, her actions aren’t enough to fit the image of an “angel of mercy”, since she was a harsh, cold woman who criticized her own nurses and only checked the patients from a distance, completely neglecting the importance of consoling and communicating with the soldiers, as it is also shown on the source U – on the lithograph Nightingale is seen leading the wounded; however, she keeps a distance inbetween. This shows that Nightingale is recognized through the image of the clean organized ward, rather than a kind-hearted and compassionated nurse treating the patients, and the ‘angel of mercy’ ought to provide both physical and mental needs to the soldier as the title says, since they will not only suffer physical attacks but will also be mentally affected by the war, and Nightingale failed to provide mental treatment.
On the other hand, Mary Seacole’s engagements fit the image of the “angel of mercy” and source V praises Seacole and her involvement during the war, despite being rejected by the British authorities due to her race and background. She went to Crimea by herself to help the wounded, whereas Nightingale who went there in request of the Minister of War, Sidney Herbert, to go to help in the war. Seacole had no hospital to take care of the wounded, but she built her own “British Hotel” in Balacava by her money, unlike the government funded “admirable hospital” in Scutari, which took days of boat trip from the battlefield. In source v, it also tells how Seacole was “in the very front line” treating the wounded, which was truly a heroic act because during that time females were seen weak and delicate, let alone belong on the battlefield, but “she showed courage under fire”, “unlike some officers” and risked her own life to save others.
This also links to the idea of ‘angel’ because like a guardian angel she was protecting them, and she may also have appeared physically like an angel to some of the soldiers as she drifted through the battlefields healing people. This shows the bravery and effort of Seacole puts in helping the soldiers, and the fact that she treated the wounded at the scene might have contributed with the drop of death-rate. Her “British Hotel” was also an important refuge to the soldiers, which again comes to the idea ‘mercy’, as it says in source V that the soldiers felt more at ease with “Mother Seacole” than in the hospital, because the hotel was more homelike. Unlike Nightingale, briefly checking the patient and ordering the nurses, Seacole was more socializing and hands on approach to the individuals, therefore she was closer with the soldiers since she ran the hotel by herself and did everything by herself, on the other hand Nightingale did very little nursing and more works on the running and organizing of the hospital, which shows that she was more of an administrator than a nurse.
Seacole approach of treating wounded and “patients suffering from cholera and dysentery” was more effective than Nightingale’s method, showing that Seacole was more skilled and had more knowledge on medicine. Source V points out that, Seacole was certainly kind, caring, empathizing like an ‘angel of mercy’, because she was the figure of a ‘mother’ to the soldiers and “attentive to their practical needs”. She nurtured them, like a mother would for their children, providing physical and mental when they are away from home and family, and also providing them with pocket handkerchief for the winter. She was admired and loved by the soldiers and that is how she received the name “Mother Seacole”, and the soldiers also arranged an event after the war to thank her.
However, media neglected Seacole’s achievement because of her race and attributed the title of “angel of mercy” to Nightingale. But there are evidences which prove that the hospitality that Seacole provided was better and more effective than Nightingale’s. Seacole not only treated the wounded because she was a nurse, but that helping soldiers was her passion; the strong, brave, determine, motherly characteristic of Seacole allowed her to provide the best for the soldiers during the war. She did everything from scratch on her own, whilst Nightingale was just appointed to run the hospital; on top of that Seacole put in more effort in taking care of the soldiers and was more compassionated than Nightingale. “Mary Seacole was on hand for the troops in the long months when nothing much appeared to be happening” just like a ‘mother’, which is figuratively close to an ‘angel’, showing that she was indeed the real “angel of mercy”.