Florence Nightingale

Adelaide Nutting's Introduction

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Title page of Nutting's History of Nursing In 1939, the turn-of-the-century feminist and nursing historian M. Adelaide Nutting was asked to record an introduction to a re-release of Florence Nigthingale's 1890 cylinder recording. Here is the transcript of both recordings.

I am glad to be given the opportunity of speaking briefly to you of Florence Nightingale and her work. For she is "of those who waged contention with their time's decay, and of the past are all that cannot pass away." She is remembered throughout the world for her heroic, almost superhuman labors during the Crimean War. But in reality these formed only the beginning of a long life of continuous effort, marked by achievements of truly amazing character which have lived, grown, and spread to the ends of the earth. Her reforms were fundamental and searching. They struck at the roots of things, dealing with hospitals, the health of the British soldier, the health of the working people, culminating in the founding of District Nursing. These reforms says one of her biographers, "went forward like armored tanks plowing over machine nests of red tape." Her brain cut like a Damascus blade through the immaterial, into the core of things. Her extraordinary executive capacity was directed by a powerful mind. Lytton Strachey says, "There is no great hospital today which does not bear upon it the impress of her mind." The School of Nursing stands supreme among her magnificent achievements. For we now know that the profound reforms needed in hospitals of all kinds, and in every phase of our common life with its everyday human needs, are dependent upon educated women with appropriate training. A volume could be written about Miss Nightingale's faith in education as the only way to remedy most of the ills of mankind. To the steady improvement in hospitals in every aspect of their work and thereby to helpful contributions to the advancement of medicine, to the care of the sick in their homes, to the prevention of disease through instruction and hygiene, -- the cornerstone of the whole structure of Public Health nursing, to teaching in schools, clinics, and health centers those elements of wholesome living which help to make good citizens, we are increasingly indebted to our schools of nursing. The advances they have made, often under peculiar difficulties, are notable and continuous, and full of encouragement and hope for the future. We who are nurses are inheritors of a great tradition. It is ours to guard, to strengthen, to enlarge where needed, and to equip ourselves worthily for so doing. We are now about to hear the voice of Florence Nightingale. It is mentioned by many of her biographers and one in particular speaks of it as having the "magic power of a great personality, and a rare character." Among my treasured memories is that of a visit to her early in the present century. One forgot the invalid and saw only the aged and beautiful face, the unfaded keen eyes, the cheerful smile, the eager listener. One noted most the surprisingly strong full voice, and I hear it still saying "Goodbye, come again." She was of those "souls whose sudden visitation daze the world, vanish like lightning, but they leave behind a voice in the distance far away, wakens the slumbering ages". Now that Florence Nightingale is with us only in rich and precious memories, and in great and living traditions, it is a rare privilege to be given the opportunity of adding to these by listening to her speak through the medium of this phonograph record her actual words, recorded in London in the year 1890. I have the honor of presenting the voice of Florence Nightingale:

When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore.

Florence Nightingale

Thanks to Grayce Roessler, PhD, RN, CTN for providing the recording. Email graycectn@aol.com -- trans-cultural seminars and travel/study tours.

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Ad from The Trained Nurse, June 1940

Robert Vincent was the heir of the Edison project that recorded Florence Nightingale's voice in 1890. This is his letter to Adelaide Nutting.

Page 1 of letter to Adelaide Nutting

Page 2 of letter to Adelaide Nutting