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Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

September 27, 2000

U of G prof to publish first-ever series on Florence Nightingale

Did you know that Canadians have Florence Nightingale to thank for their public health- care system? Or that the pioneer of modern nursing was also an avid writer on subjects such as philosophy, sociology, theology and spirituality? How about the fact that she was a tireless political activist who lobbied the highest government and religious leaders for change? Or that at one point, despite her tendency to focus on theology, she was denounced as a non-believer?

Soon, people can learn about these revelations and more via the first-ever multi-volume series on the writings of Florence Nightingale being published by University of Guelph professor Lynn McDonald.

"No such collection exists," said McDonald. "There are collections of works by comparable male scholars, such as the 33-volume collection of John Stuart Mill. Florence Nightingale's work is of no less interest. She was one of the great thinkers of all time, and I think she will come across as an extremely rare and brilliant mind. My intention is to present her as a major 19th-century scholar."

The first three of a projected 16 volumes of the Collected Works of Florence Nightingale are set to be published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press early next year. They will focus on Nightingale's life, spiritual journey and theology. "These collected works will make it possible for people to get the record straight," McDonald said, adding that in the past, biographers have either glorified or erroneously denounced Nightingale. "No one has ever looked at the whole story. I think Nightingale will come across as a more comprehensive person than ever before."

Best known for the role she played in the founding of nursing and public health care systems, Nightingale was also a statistician, humanitarian and political activist who lobbied hard for change, especially relating to army medical services, regulation of prostitution and public health in India, McDonald said. "The depth and breadth of her work are so vast. Yes, she was a nurse, but that was only one component of her life. The scope, breadth and quality of the writing are outstanding."

McDonald, a former MP and president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, started the project out of frustration when students were unable to find enough of the nursing pioneer's original works for an essay. "Instead of complaining about the lack of available material, I told myself I would do something about it -- if it's the last thing I do. And believe me, it may be the last thing I ever do. It has proven to be an all-consuming, intense and demanding project."

The research and writing will be ongoing by a team of researchers, including scholars from McMaster University, the University of Toronto, Brown University, University of Sydney in Australia, and Oxford University, as well as McDonald, who joined the Guelph faculty in 1991.

Tracking down all of those letters, memorandums, essays and thoughts has been a painstaking process, McDonald said. "Her work is literally scattered in obscure corners of archives all over the world." Many of the materials the researchers have discovered were unknown or considered lost. Sources have been found and are being pursued in India, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States.

McDonald, whose research interests include social sciences, women theorists, political sociology and the environment, originally became interested in Nightingale while working on the book Women Theorists on Society and Politics, published in 1998. "Nightingale spent her life trying to make the world a better place. Studying and researching about her and her life are absolutely daunting."

Contact: Prof. Lynn McDonald Department of Sociology and Anthropology (519) 824-4120, Ext. 2198

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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