Florence Nightingale, the Lady With the Lamp

Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale at Scutari, 1856. (Image: via Public Domain)

Florence Nightingale, a prominent British social reformer and statistician, was born on May 12, 1820. She is renowned as the creator of modern nursing and rose to fame as a nurse during the Crimean War, where she cared for wounded troops. She was given the name ‘The Lady with the Lamp’ due to her habit of making rounds at night.

Early life and education

Florence Nightingale was a well-educated young woman who saw the absence of opportunities for ladies in her social group early on. It’s thought she had a close relationship with her father, who was active in anti-slavery campaigns. He was reported to have regarded his daughter as a friend and companion, and he was a strong supporter of her education.

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Florence began visiting poor people, and her passion for assisting sick people increased in her early years.

Florence frequently visited London to look at prospective jobs for women in the city’s hospitals. Unfortunately, nurses were not much appreciated due to the employer not requiring a high level of education at the time. Her trips grew more frequent about 1844, and she also made time to go to Egypt and Paris, where she was introduced to a convent in Alexandria.

She observed that the disciplined and well-organized sisters were superior nurses to English women. Following these experiences, Florence Nightingale enrolled at Kaiserswerth’s Institute of Protestant Deaconesses, a training institution for female instructors and nurses.

Florence Nightingale was an English social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing.
Florence Nightingale was an English social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. (Image: via Public Domain)

The Crimean War

The outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854 was a turning point in Florence Nightingale’s life. The war was fought between Russia and an ultimately victorious alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom, and Sardinia-Piedmont. It was said that ill and severely injured people suffered in English camps and that the circumstances for wounded troops in French facilities were vastly different.

A call was sent to all women in England to assist those in need in their nation. Nightingale chose to visit Crimea in October of the same year. She departed with over 30 other nurses, arriving at Scutari, Albania, on the eve of the Battle of Inkerman.

Nightingale as the ‘Lady in Chief’

Nightingale was the Superintendent of Female Nurses at the Eastern Hospitals, but everyone called her the “Lady in Chief.” The barrack hospital in Scutari served as the headquarters for the freshly arrived nurses. The apartment was characterized as dirty, and Nightingale claimed that there was no water, soap, clothing, or food when she came.

The troops just lay in their uniforms, spreading dangerous illnesses. In addition to a lack of supplies, the nurses had to deal with the aggressive behavior of the orderlies.

'The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale received the Wounded at Scutari.'
The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale received the Wounded at Scutari,’ Jerry Barrett, 1857. (Image: via Public Domain)

Becoming the ‘Lady with the Lamp’

Fortunately, Nightingale and her team improved the hospital’s position. As additional help, materials, and food arrived, Nightingale created a large kitchen and laundry. In addition to her full-time duty at the hospital, Nightingale found time to care for the soldiers’ families and made rounds, keeping an eye on the injured troops at night because she was the only nurse allowed in the wards.

The guys began referring to her as the Lady with the Lamp.

Rising death rates

With many of the sick individuals in the hospital and the poor working conditions for the physicians and nurses, many of them became ill or died. Furthermore, frostbite and dysentery from exposure in the trenches before Sevastopol filled the wards even more than before, and the death rate rose to 42 percent by February 1855. Nightingale was also susceptible to infectious diseases.

When she visited Balaclava, she became ill with the so-called Crimean fever, but she recovered and subsequently continued her job in Scutari. 

Returning home

Florence Nightingale went home and entered England without being noticed in 1856. However, she had the opportunity to meet Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, alerting them about the miserable condition, and a fund was set up to establish a nursing training school.

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