Like Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole made a name for herself by helping wounded and sick soldiers during the Crimean War. Although Mary Seacole was well-known in Victorian Britain, she was almost completely forgotten following her death in 1881. Recently, however, historians have been paying more attention to the role she played in treating the sick during her lifetime.
Here are some interesting facts about Mary Seacole.
Mary Secole Facts – Before the Crimean War
- Mary was born in 1805 in Kingston, Jamaica.
- Her father was a Scottish soldier and her mother was Jamaican.
- Mary Seacole was mixed-race and described herself as ‘Creole’.
- Mary’s mother ran a boarding house in Kingston. Many of the guests were disabled and injured European soldiers.
- Her mother taught Mary to care for the sick and injured soldiers by using herbal rememdies and traditional Jamaican and African folk treatments.
- Mary was able to read and write, but it is not clear whether or not she attended school.
- Unlike most women of the time, Mary Seacole travelled a lot. Before setting off for the Crimea, Mary had spent time in Panama, Haiti and Cuba. During her travels, she spent time helping sick and injured people. She gained lots of experience treating people suffering with cholera, yellow fever and other tropical diseases.
Mary Seacole and the Crimean War
- As soon as she heard about the suffering of the soldiers in the Crimean War, she wanted to travel to Turkey to help them. Mary asked the British War Office to send her to the conflict to help treat the wounded, but her request was refused. Mary also wasn’t chosen to be one of the nurses to accompany Florence Nightingale to the Crimea.
- Mary Seacole decided to make her own way to the Crimea. She borrowed the money for the 4000 mile journey and came up with a business plan that would allow her to tend to the injured and wounded soldiers.
- Mary set up the British Hotel, located only two miles away from the conflict itself. She rented rooms to injured soldiers and sold food and equipment to the troops. Mary spent the money on caring for the wounded soldiers from both sides.
- Mary ran a daily clinic to nurse the sick soldiers and she was often spotted treating wounds on the battlefield – something Florence Nightingale never did.
- Mary was known as Mother Seacole by the soldiers she cared for.
Mary Seacole’s Life After the Crimean War
- Mary was very poor after the end of the Crimean War in 1856. She returned both broke and in ill-health.
- A charity gala was held London in her honour. Over 80,ooo people attended.
- Mary Seacole wrote a book about her experiences. It’s called Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands and it was very popular when it was published in 1857.
- She died in 1881 and was buried in Kensal Green, London.
Take a look at some facts and information about some of the other famous Victorians.