Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do You Know Flo?

What do you know about Florence Nightingale?  She went to the Crimean War, she invented nursing, she had a lamp, it was all too much for her and she returned from the war and fell into her bed from exhaustion and then died.  Right?

Would you believe that all of her work was such an embarrassment to her family that they destroyed many of her personal documents and had a biographer write a fake biography about her? 

I'm sure many of our families would like to have this option!

The first biography of Florence showed her as heroine from the Crimean War who was so consumed by this passion that she came home from the war and took too her bed, suffering from something called "neurasthenia".  Neurasthenia was a disease that occurred only in women in Victorian times and was caused by trying to work too hard  (I knew there was a reason not to work so hard!). 

You can kind of see why her parents did this.  Florence first upset her parents by asking to learn, at the age of 20, about mathematics!  Gasp!  Of all things.  She was 20 years old and had no prospects of marriage so they figured she was a waste anyway, she might as well go ahead and learn some math.  Then, she had the audacity to tell her mother, repeatedly, that what she really wanted to do with her life was run a hospital.  Every time she told her mother this,  her mother got the vapors and collapsed in shock.*  Apparently in the 1800's, running a hospital was the equivalent of getting a nose ring. 

Actually, Florence came back to England at the age of 36 from the Crimean War and worked until her death at age 90 to improve health through sanitary conditions.  She was quite the activist, though not without controversy. 

More to come...

*From Hugh Small's book, Florence Nightingale, Avenging Angel, 2nd ed., Knowledge Leak, London.

No comments:

Post a Comment