2010 marked the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s death, but there was very little celebration of her life and accomplishments. It was also the 150th anniversary of the publication of her most famous book, Notes on Nursing, and the founding of her school. By contrast, 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, which was hugely celebrated.
Nursing historians have had an ongoing debate on Nightingale’s achievements: “Was there a Nightingale system of training, and if so, did it have any significant influence on the development of nursing in the 19th century?” It is hard to imagine a comparable question being asked of Darwin’s achievements. Why?
Nightingale was always controversial and always had detractors, but from 1982 her reputation has been attacked. Below are a series of exchanges with Nightingale critics and print or broadcast media, questioning and rebutting some of these attacks.
- Letter to Sir Hugh Taylor, chair, Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Trust, regarding proposal for a Mary Seacole memorial
- Letter to Baron Patten of Barnes, chair of the BBC Trust, jointly signed by Lynn McDonald, Tom Keighley, Alison Macfarlane, Eileen Magnello, and Susan McGann, 2011
- Letters to BBC executives, in reference to the BBC TV productions "Florence Nightingale: Iron Maiden" (2001), "Florence Nightingale" (2008) and "Mary Seacole: a Hidden History" (2005)
- Times Online article re the 2008 BBC programme
- Letter to editor of Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in reference to article by Baly and Matthew in 2005 edition
- An unscrupulous liar? Florence Nightingale revealed in her own writings. Article by Lynn McDonald in The Times Literary Supplement, 6 December 2000
- Exchange of letters with F.B. Smith, author of Florence Nightingale: Reputation and Power
There are sections within the Collected Works volumes themselves with refutations; see Appendix B: The Rise and Fall of Florence Nightingale’s Reputation, in Life and Family 1:843-47; Appendix B: Secondary Sources on Nightingale and Women, in Women, 8:1039-53; The Revisionist Literature on Nightingale, in Extending Nursing 12:31-36; Secondary Sources on Nightingale and the Crimean War, in The Crimean War 14:32-40.
A whole new society has been established to defend Nightingale against the attacks and circulating misinformation. See its website: www.nightingalesociety.com/.
There is now so much misinformation about Mary Seacole in circulation, even the proposal that she was Nightingale’s equal in establishing nursing, or her better, so that she should replace Nightingale as the major founder. A website is now available with refutations of the misinformation in circulation. See: www.maryseacole.info/.