Facts About Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a famous nurse. She is best known for the work she did to care for the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, but she also made a big contribution to changing the way in which hospitals were run. She was a celebrity in Victorian times and she has continued to be spoken and written about to this day.

We’ve put together some great Florence Nightingale facts for kids, teachers and parents – we hope you find this information both useful and interesting.

Key Florence Nightingale Facts – (Before the Crimean War)

  • Florence Nightingale was born in Florence (Italy) on 12th May 1820.
  • Her mother was called Fanny and her father was called William. Florence also had an older sister called Parthenope. They were a very wealthy family.
  • Florence grew up mingling with other rich children and spent much of her time visiting friends and attending parties.
  • On 7th February 1837, when she was 16 years, old Florence was convinced that she had heard the voice of God calling to her. She believed that God wanted her to carry out some special work.
  • When she was in her twenties Florence began to take an interest in how the sick people in the villages around her home (in Romsey, Hampshire) were taken care of. She started to believe that God wanted her to be a nurse.
  • Her parents were both shocked and angry when she told them that she wanted to learn more about nursing  at a Salisbury hospital. At the time nearly all nurses came from poor families.
  • Florence and some of her friends visited Kaiserwerth (in what is now Germany). The town was home to a hospital famous for training nurses. One year later, in 1851, Florence Nightingale recieved three months training at the hospital in Kaiserwerth.
  • Florence returned home as a trained nurse. She put these skills to good use as from 1851 – 1853 she cared for her mother, father and sister who had all become ill.
  • In 1853, when she was 33, she took a job running a small private hospital in London’s Harley Street.
  • Her father realised that Florence was really serious about helping the sick and injured and promised to pay her £500 a year. This was a massive sum of money in Victorian times.
  • In 1854 Florence helped to tend people suffering from cholera.

Florence NightingaleFlorence Nightingale and the Crimean War

  • In 1854 the Crimean War started between the Turks (and the British and French) on one side and the Russians on the other.
  • William Russell, a journalist for The Times, reported that British troops were dying becasue there weren’t enough doctors, nurses and medical supplies.
  • Sidney Herbert, a friend of Florence’s and the member of the government in charge of the military, wrote to her and asked her to organise a group of nurses and head for the Crimea (in Turkey).
  • On 4th November 1854 Florence Nightingale and 38 other nurses arrived at Scutari, an area of the city of Constantiople. The main British hospital was located there and Florence was not impressed by the conditions. The hospital was dirty, the drains were blocked, rats and fleas were everywhere.
  • At first the doctors did not want the help of Florence Nightingale and her nurses, but they soon changed their minds when the number of wounded soldiers continued to grow.
  • Florence made lots of improvements to the hospital in Scutari. She had the drains cleaned, sorted out a supply of drinking water, filled the hospital stores with clean sheets and bandages, set up a nursing timetable and made sure that the soliders were well fed and cared for.
  • Florence became very popular. The soldiers used to call her the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ because she used to walk the hospital wards at night to check on her patients.
  • The Crimean War ended in 1856 and Florence returned to England. She was a national heroine and many Victorians bought ornaments of Florence Nightingale to display in their homes. Florence also received thousands of letters from the public thanking her for the work she had performed during the war.
  • Queen Victoria invited Florence to meet with her in Balmoral, Scotland. They discussed Florence’s experiences and how military hospitals could be improved.

Life After the Lamp – Facts About the Second Half of Florence Nightingale’s Life

  • In 1859 Florence Nightingale wrote a book about caring for the sick called Notes on Nursing.
  • Florence Nightingale was convinced that all nurses should be properly trained, and in 1860 she set up the Nightingale Training School (for nurses) at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. The nurses who completed the training were known as Nightingale Nurses.
  • Florence carried on writing letters and reports about ways to improve health care. Her work became known in other countries and the Nightingale Nurses often went to work abroad, sharing Florence’s methods and ideas.
  • From 1861 to 1865, Florence gave advice on how best to care for soldiers wounded in the American Civil War.
  • Florence Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross (from Queen Victoria) and the Order of Merit in 1907 (from King Edward VII). This was the first time the Order of Merit had been awarded to a woman.
  • Florence Nightingale died in 1910, aged 90. She is buried in a Hampshire churchyard. Her simple tombstone bears only her initials and the years in which she was born and died.

Florence Nightingale wasn’t the only women who made a name for herself by caring for the wounded troops of the Crimean War. Check out some facts about Mary Seacole, another Victorian lady who risked her life to tend the suffering soldiers, and read about some of the other famous Victorians.

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