The terrible voice of a man in the greatest of all human pain screams and then turns into a horrible moan. We slowly become aware that we are in a large room with dirt floors, and crumbling dirt walls, and ceiling. Four men, bloody and wearing torn, filthy clothes hold a fifth man stretched out between them. A sixth man saws quickly back and forth with a surgical saw and cuts through the last bit of flesh holding the stretched-out man's leg to his hip.
The surgeon speaks:
"I don't care what the bloody hell the big shots say from London. I haven't spent over half of my life in the Queen's Army to have a God-damn woman come in and muck it all up telling me how to do my job. Everything is all right here. Soon they will be expecting us to use this new stuff chloroform, but I tell you there is nothing like a lusty bawl of a man under the knife to let you know he is well on his way to recovery."
"Yes, sir," the men agree.
The surgeon grabs the now severed leg off the dirty floor where it has fallen and tosses it upon a pile of human arms, legs, hands, feet and miscellany: the culmination of many endless operations. Next to the pile in a haphazard row are the next patients, prostrate, bloody and fearful. The man closest to the pile and the surgical team looks up at the doctor, gags, moans, then passes out.
As our senses adjust we see an endless sea of sick and wounded English soldiers lying in mushy, murky, filth; wearing torn and dirty remnants of once beautiful uniforms of endless variation. Rats climb over and 'round the men, and vermin of all kinds are everywhere, while hundreds of maggots cover every open wound. This is the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, once home for thousands of Turkish troops, now last stop for English sick and wounded soldiers fortunate or unfortunate enough to have survived the 5-21 day trip by sea from the Crimean War Battle Ground.
Among the prostrate forms we can see movement as Turkish workers bring new patients in on litters, carts and by hand and deposit them rudely helter-skelter anywhere there is space. Men in shredded uniforms empty bedpans into buckets and pour the human waste into huge vats in the center of the hall, where it spills over and back onto the floor and the sick and dying. Here and there someone brings miscellaneous containers full of horrible chunks of partly boiled meat and put it on the floor beside the patients. Occasionally we see a woman in rags, sometimes with an infant in her arms, huddled next to a soldier trying to comfort. Throughout it all we hear the moans, screams and profanities of the insane and dying.
Of a sudden, through the giant doorway leading out to a muddy dirt carriage and foot pathway, through which all has come and gone, comes a party of mostly women. Most of them are wearing long gray ill fitting dresses, white caps and mid-length woolen cloaks, and a brown scarf across their middle embroidered in red with the words "Scutari Hospital." A small number of the women are dressed in several variations of uniforms of religious orders. All are carrying a carpet bag and umbrella.
The women are led by a small group of not so important English Military men. Amongst the men is a tall, thin woman, dressed in elegant but simple black, full dress and cloak. Her head is covered with a white scarf. She has reddish brown hair and gray eyes and very sharp and pleasant features. While the rest of the group seem either confuse, shocked or depressed, she seems to glow with a sense of purpose and determination.
As the military guides lead the disbelieving group through the Hell of misery and filth, Miss Florence Nightingale seems to shake off the fatigue of the long journey from England as she takes in the surroundings. She seems to beam with an inner, peaceful, almost joyful glow. Their guide speaks:
"Welcome to the Barrack Hospital of Her Majesty's Forces in The Crimean War. This is one of two hospitals in Scutari. Across the Bosphorus is the famous city of Istanbul. We shall now show you to your quarters. We apologize for their condition and smallness but it was the best we could do on such short notice. We did not expect your arrival for as you can see we have the situation well in hand and have no need for additional assistance."
As the group moves along toward their quarters one of the nurses says to Florence,
"Miss Nightingale this is so terrible, I hope we can begin at once to tend to the needs of these poor souls."
Florence smiles and with a stern look at the woman says, "The strongest shall be needed at wash tubs with soap and scrub brush."
The group stops bedside four vacant rooms, bare except for an elevated wooden platform jutting out from the walls.
"These will be your quarters. Welcome to Scutari, ladies and gentlemen," their guide says, then turns and leaves.
Meanwhile down the corridor the aides to the surgeon grab the next in line off the floor and hold him for lack of a surgical table. The doctor wipes the gore off his surgical saw, onto his filthy, stained apron, looking more like a butcher than a surgeon and mumbles,
"Send The Bird and her bitches back to their nurseries, convents, and kitchens in England so we may get on with our work. Women in war, disgusting."
He looks down at the form held out in front of him and cautions,
"Hold still my good fellow. This will hurt."
As he begins to saw upon the man's arm we hear a blood curdling scream and focus first on the pile of amputated parts, then to an ox cart laden with corpses slowly making its way from the Barrack Hospital, down the dirt road, to the British Cemetery overlooking the ocean channel called the Bosphorus, across from the beautiful, glittering city of Istanbul.
It is a lovely English summer day. All around the Nightingales' summer home of Lea Hurst in the small village of Lea. Flowers, trees, and shrubs are in full bloom. We can hear the bubbling and gurgling of the River Derwent in the background. In the front driveway outside the main entrance a middle aged woman in working servant clothes fusses over a young pre-teenage girl in full, early Victorian finery. although the young English princess Victoria is years away from becoming queen and young Florence Nightingale is years away from world fame as a nurse innovator, both girls, born only one year apart and not knowing each other yet, have already a hint and suspect of what is to come.
Florence has in fact already received her first of four direct "calls from God." Although her first "call" was only "to serve" and she had yet to know in what capacity, it helped to give her a certain seriousness beyond her years and she had already earned a reputation for being a "difficult" child unlike her sister Parthenope.
"Now, Miss Florence" the girls nanny Mrs. Gale fussed, "Please do not mess your frock again or your mother Frances will be so upset with me. Here are some things she has prepared for you to drop off at poor sick Agnes' hut for her and her children. And there is a nice new blanket for old Roger the shepherd with some scraps for his dog Cap. Now don't forget to leave these flowers at the school house on your way home. And do please try to not be late for dinner again."
Just then a very tall man in an Edwardian suit with a top hat rode up on a horse and dismounted. Tying his horse at the hitch post he walked over, embraced the girl and kissed her on the cheek. It was her father, William Edward Nightingale, who had just returned from inspecting the main source of the Nightingale fortune, a lead smelter he inherited from his great uncle "Mad" Peter Nightingale. The smelter was a source of money and ill health for the Nightingales and the neighboring people and farm animals. The smelter was just a short ride or walk away from the Nightingale home. W.E.N., as the family called Mr. Nightingale, left a smudge of dirt and lead particles on his daughter's cheek from his beard after he hugged and kissed her which Mrs. Gale quickly wiped off the girl's face.
"And is my little heroine off to heal the sick and tend to the needy again?" he asked with a cheery smile.
"Oh, yes father. And I shall meet with Vicar Thomas he has agreed to go with me."
"Excellent" said the man.
The clergyman was on old friend of W.E.N. and her father was always happy to see them together,
In a paddock near the house was an old gray pony named Peggy who had been given to Florence since she was too old to do work around the estate and very gentle. One of the many household servants brought the old horse, all saddled and ready to ride, over to the girl and the nanny. Peggy nuzzled up to Florence and immediately stuck her face into a special pocket of her dress. Finding to the girl's and the pony's delight, an apple placed there especially for her. She munched happily as the man servant helped the girl into the saddle.
Suddenly bursting from out the front door came another young girl dressed in Victorian finery. It was Florence's sister, tall and thin, like Florence. But while she was good looking she lacked a certain something that made Florence especially attractive: an aura of intelligence, genius perhaps, and sensuality that made Parthenope seem plain in comparison. Although neither girl had the gorgeous good looks of the mother, Frances, "Fanny,"nee Smith, Nightingale.
"Oh, Flo" she cried, "please don't go out running about today again. Cousins Hillary, Marianne and Henry will soon be here and we are planning a huge theatrical for the evening."
"Pop, sweet 'Pop', I shan't be long. You know how I love to ride and Vicar Thomas is waiting and mother wants me to take these vittles to poor Agnes. Please give them all my love and tell them I will soon be back. I'll see them all at dinner."
Florence was now mounted and Mrs. Gale strapped the provisions and gifts to the back of the saddle and off she rode.
A short ways away from the house she met up with Vicar Thomas riding on his horse.
"Hello, Miss Florence. My you look lovely today. What a wonderful bonnet. And how is old Peggy feeling?"
"Well, she is old and slow and her rheumatism bothers her as you know but she did manage a trot."
"Jolly good, jolly good," the old man said.
At that moment they were interrupted by the sight and sound of several sheep running past them through the field followed by old Roger the shepherd with his long staff huffing and puffing and looking quite out of sorts.
"What shall I do? What shall I do?," the shepherd muttered to himself as he stumbled along. Then suddenly noticing the pair on horseback he stopped and removing his cap addressed them both.
"How do Vicar Thomas and Miss Florence" the man said.
"Why, whatever is the problem Roger?" the Vicar asked.
"And where is your good dog Cap? That dog should be tending to these sheep for you as always."
"Yes sir, that's it sir. You see how shall I ever get along without him? My good faithful Cap. Some of the village boys were teasing him with rocks and went and broke his leg and now he cannot walk. I've left him home in me hut and he can't help me no more. I'll never find another dog like my own Cap and you know I've had him since a pup sir. I guess I'll have to kill him tonight after I get home just to put him out of his misery. Oh, my. Oh, my. Excuse me please" the old man muttered. Then wiping the tears form his eyes he went off after his wayward sheep and we now see the entire flock is in disarray.
"Can this be?" Florence asks the clergyman. "Will Cap have to be killed?"
"We shall see. Come now, we shall see," said the man.
Together they rode off to the shepherd's cottage, dismounted and walked inside. Growing accustomed to the dark they looked around. It was more of a hovel than anything else. Dirt floor and walls with a thatched roof. A plain wooden table, cup and bowl, with one chair and a few odds and ends. Clashing violently with the fine colorful clothes of Miss Nightingale and the house and grounds she just left.
They hear a whimper and whine from under the table and both kneel down to look and sure enough there is old Cap looking very sad but very happy to see them both. He tries to get up and greet them but falls back in obvious pain not able to use his wounded leg.
The girl watches as the vicar gently picks the dog up and out from under the table, quickly checking the bad leg and announces, "It is not broken, only badly bruised. With proper treatment and time he will be good as new again."
"Oh, wonderful" , says the girl. And she kneels beside the dog and gently pets its head and it licks her hand the way all dogs do trusting into the care of their human friends. Getting blood and dirt on her clean clothes she asks the vicar, "Is there nothing we can do to ease the pain and speed the recovery?"
"Yes, we can, and we shall. We will apply warm compresses to bring the swelling down and a poultice of comfrey leaves which we shall pick from the garden outside to help heal the cuts. I will build a fire to heat water and you fetch me some comfrey and some cloth." He starts a fire in the hearth and Florence goes outside. She tears some strips of cloth off from out of the package Mrs. Gale has tied to the back of Peggy's saddle. Picks some comfrey leaves from out of the garden by the hut and returns inside.
It is only a matter of a short while before the two have the doggie feeling much better and it even agrees to eat a bit of the beef broth that Fanny had prepared for their neighbor Agnes.
Soon the shepherd Roger appears in the doorway prepared for the worst.
"Cap's leg is not broken" the girl exclaims to him, "and the vicar and I are nursing him and soon he will be well enough to help you tend your flock again."
"Oh, thank you Miss, thank you" the old man sobs and walks over and kneels down to touch his beloved dog as Florence and the clergyman watch.
Meanwhile back at Lea Hurst the rest of the Nightingale family with servants and some visiting cousins and their parents wait in the drawing room for Florence to return.
"Where is that girl this time?" the mother fumes
"Now, now dear. I'm sure she is fine. She is with the vicar Thomas and will be home any minute now. Let's all just start dinner without her."
At that Frances, W.E.N., Parthenope, cousins Hillary, Marianne and Henry, W.E.N.'s sister Aunt Mai, her husband Fanny's brother Uncle Samuel Smith and the servants walk towards the dining room.
Just then the front door bursts open and in rushes Florence her face all flush and full of joy. Her gray eyes beaming. Her auburn hair a mess and her clothes smudged with dirt and blood.
"Oh, mother, I'm so sorry I am late but you see Roger's old Cap got hurt so bad and he thought to kill him but Vicar Thomas and I nursed him and he will now live and won't have to die. Isn't it wonderful?"
Everyone turned and stared at her as they shook their heads in disapproval and disbelief. Her mother only noticed that the girl's dress, face, and bonnet were now a mess and not knowing that this was a portent of a day to come when the entire world would worship the Queen of Nurses for showing all a way out of unnecessary suffering and death. No, Frances Nightingale only saw that her youngest and most "difficult" daughter had once again ruined her outfit and upset the family plans.
"What are we to do?" she muttered to her husband who alone in the room seemed to be smiling.
Then W.E.N.'s sister Aunt Mai addresses Florence's mother,
"You know Frances I don't think you have any idea of half of what is in her."
"Oh, stop meddling" the mother replies.
Outside in the flower and vegetable garden of the Nightingales' much larger, English mansion. It is the family's main house Embley Park. From inside we hear peals of laughter and the loud talk of dozens of young people as they busy themselves at various musical and theatrical games of the times. Groups of adults congregate in a few very large dining and sitting rooms, adorned in fashionable "summer season" best clothes, gossiping and talking of family and politics and culture. A small string ensemble gathered round a pianoforte perform dances and popular songs of the day. Outside, in the afternoon sunshine, numerous dogs, cats, children and servants run to and fro in gay play.
Our attention now focuses on a small library room for a tete-a-tete. A young very elegantly dressed woman, beautiful but somewhat serious and pensive, approaches a formal looking middle aged man and woman. The man is a very famous American altruist, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, having invented sign language for the deaf, and the woman is his wife, Julia Ward Howe, soon to write "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" for the American Northern Forces.
" Dr. Howe, you have had much experience in the world of philanthropy. You are a medical man and a gentleman. Now may I ask you to tell me, upon your word, whether there would be anything unsuitable or unbecoming to a young Englishwoman, if she should devote herself to works of charity, in hospitals and elsewhere, as the Catholic Sisters do?"
The couple look at each other and smile. The man pauses, then looks at Miss Nightingale and says, "My dear Miss Florence, it would be unusual, and in England whatever is unusual is apt to be thought unsuitable; but I say to you, go forward, if you have a vocation for that way of life; act up to your aspiration, and you will find that there is never anything unbecoming or unladylike in doing your duty for the good of others. Choose your path, go on with it, wherever it may lead you, and God be with you!"
The young woman thanks the couple and wanders out into the garden past her frolicking peers and the babies and pets and servants. She sits alone amongst the shaded beauty of her beautiful family home and thinks aloud.
"Oh, Lord, please do not forsake me now. I know you called upon me to serve you, but how? I know I have given in at times to the fancy of life in society. I have loved the gaiety and music and attention of being a young woman, but never has the dream of family bliss been as strong as the desire to serve. But serve as what? I beg you Lord, please tell me. I cannot stand the torture of this idyll life any longer. Please, dear God, please."
She breaks down and begins to shake and sob uncontrollably.
Parthenope comes bursting upon the scene. She is laughing and shouting.
"Flo, Flo, my dearest, darling sister. Flo where are you?"
The two women confront each other. Florence stares up at her sister with a condescending look and forced smile, her face wet with tears.
"Hello, my dear Pop has the party already become boring? You really should try harder to get along without me you know. I may not always be your constant companion."
Parthenope laughs, then says, "Oh Flo, my Flo, you know mother and father have said you must entertain me and do what ever I say for six months since you insisted on visiting all those terrible hospitals and neglected your family. My, how you have caused our mother pain. I hope you have it out of your system. Come on now, our cousins and guests are waiting for you. You know you are the star of the show and party.'
Parthenope grabs Florence, pulls her up from her bench seat, and hugs her. Quickly Florence regains her composure and entwines herself. The two young women begin to laugh and then run off laughing towards the house and the merriment inside.
In an upstairs master bedroom William Edward Nightingale paces. His tall slender frame stoops as if under enormous weight. He listens reluctantly as an obviously distressed Francis Nightingale harangues on and on while seated in one of the beautiful plush easy chairs.
"W.E.N., I know you are sick of hearing it, and I am too, but what are we to do? We are a family of ducks that has born a wild swan."
"More like a wild eagle," W.E.N. mumbles under his breath.
Fanny Nightingale continues, "My God. The richest ,best looking men of all England follow her about like puppies, waiting and hoping for her hand in marriage and yet she stalls on and on forever. And what shall become of poor Parthenope? I ask you? What, W.E.N.? How shall poor Parthe ever find her place in society. It was your idea to educate her so. Greek, Latin, German, French, Italian, History, Philosophy and even, God forbid, Mathematics! Well, it's over now! Now it is time for marriage. Can't you talk some sense into her. God knows she will not listen to her mother."
W.E.N. stops pacing, looks at his wife and says, "Fanny, please don't get yourself upset. The girl has a wonderful mind and sense of purpose. Granted, she has been somewhat different since the age of six than most other girls. But I think it might help her find herself if she was just able to spend a little more time on this nursing business."
"Nursing," Fanny screams. "Don't you realize how horrible hospitals are. My God, they are filthy, terrible places and those, those, women are all drunken.... oh, I can't even say it."
"But dear." He continues, "We have it on best report that Pastor Fliedner's Kaiserwerth Hospital in Germany is the finest institution for training there is. She only wants to go for a month or so."
At the mention of Kaiserwerth Hospital, Fanny swoons, moans and gasps, then falls to the floor in a dead faint. W.E.N. gasps, runs to the door of the bedroom and calls out into the corridor for the servants. "Please, help. It is Fanny. She has fainted again. Oh, what am I to do? What am I to do?"
A bustle of servants rush into the room and the two sisters also. Parthenope admonishing her sister, "I just know it is you who have upset her. Can't you behave. You are such a selfish person."
They run to the prostrate form of their mother. They look up at their father. Florence pleading. Parthenope glaring. W.E.N. slowly shaking his head from side to side retreats to the library to pace, think and worry. Florence begins to minister to her mother. All step back to give her room as she calmly and professionally begins to revive the woman. We hear the joyous sounds of downstairs frolics blend with the distressed sounds of tending to the distraught hostess upstairs.
The principal hospitals of the British Army during the Crimean War-four in number- were at Scutari, the suburb which looked across to Istanbul from the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus. The first hospital to be established was in the Turkish Military Hospital. This was made over the British in May 1854 and was called by them the General Hospital. It was, wrote Miss Nightingale, reduced to good order. It had accommodations for 1000 patients. North of the General Hospital are the Selimiye Barracks. A great yellow building with square towers at each corner, open in the middle with red tile roof. It was soon to have by FN's estimate, "four miles of beds, and not eighteen inches apart"
This building was made over to British use after the Battle of the Alma. This is the hospital in which Miss Nightingale and her band of female nurses were first established, and in which she herself had her headquarters throughout her stay at Scutari and it was called by all, the Barrack Hospital.
Her party's quarters were in the north-west tower, on the left of the Main Guard or principal entrance. It came to be called the "Nurses Tower." There was a large kitchen or storeroom, and out of it on either side various other rooms opened. Six rooms, one of which was a kitchen and another a closet ten feet square, had been allotted to a party of forty persons.
Fourteen nurses were to sleep in one room, ten nuns in another, Miss Nightingale and Mrs. Selina Bracebridge shared the closet; Mr. Charles Bracebridge and the courier-interpreter slept in the office. Mrs. Clarke, who was to be cook, and her assistant must go to bed in the kitchen. There was one more room upstairs, and the eight Sellonites must sleep there.
They went upstairs, and hurried back. The room was occupied by the dead body of a Russian general. Mr. Bracebridge fetched two men to remove the corpse while the sisters waited. The room was not cleaned and there was nothing to clean it with and meanwhile the decease general's white hairs littered the floor. While the nurses and sisters unpacked, FN went down into the hospital and managed to procure tin basins of milk-less tea. As the party drank it, she told them what she had discovered:
"The hospital is totally lacking in equipment. It is hopeless to ask for furniture. There is no furniture. There is not even an operating table. There are no medical supplies. There are not even the ordinary necessities of life. For the present we all must use our tins for everything: washing, eating, and drinking."
"We must be prepared to go short of water. Our allowance is limited to a pint a day for washing and drinking, including tea, and it is necessary for us to line up in one corridor where there is a fountain to obtain it. Tonight we must go to bed in darkness, for there is a shortage of lamps and candles. Tomorrow I will bring candles and other things from the ship and the market in Istanbul"
The rooms were alive with fleas, and rats scurried beneath the divans all night long. FN was soon to become an excellent rat killer.
The doctors ignored FN. She and her nurses were to be frozen out. None would use her nurses or supplies. And she realized that before she could accomplish anything she must win the confidence of the doctors. She determined not to offer her nurses and her stores but to wait until the doctors asked her for help. She did not have to wait long. In a matter of days they were all "steeped up to their necks in blood." She wrote:
"The wounded are now lying up to our very door, and we are landing 540 more from the Andes (ship). Every ten minutes an Orderly runs in and we have to go and cram lint into a wound 'till a Surgeon can be sent for. We try to stop the bleeding as well we can. In all our corridors, I think we have not an average of three limbs per man, and there are two ships more loading at the Crimea with wounded. The operations are all performed in the wards, no time to move them. One poor fellow exhausted with hemorrhage, has his leg amputated as a first hope, and dies a minute later. Almost before the breath has left his body it is sewn up in its blanket and carried away and buried the same day. We have no room for corpses in the wards."
"I am getting a Screen now for the amputations, for when one poor fellow, who is to be amputated tomorrow sees his comrade die today under the knife, it make an impression and diminishes his chances. The mortality of the operations is frightful. We have Erysipelas fever and gangrene."
The Nightingales were always entertaining. When Florence was young she would not socialize "for fear of doing something strange with her knife or fork," but in her twenties she became quite sociable. At one particular dinner party given by her parents she was seated between two noted scholars: Sir Henry de la Beche and Warington Smythe. Seizing the opportunity to talk Florence first engaged Sir Henry de la Beche, the pioneer of the Geological Map of England in a discussion on geology. She charmed him by the boldness and breadth of her views, which were not common then. She accidentally proceeded into regions of Latin and Greek and Sir Henry had to beg off admitting it was over his head. She then turned to Warington Smythe, noted Egyptologist, and began to talk about her trip to Egypt. She was interested in inscriptions and she began quoting Lepsius, which she had been studying in the original. He was in the same situation as Sir Henry.
When the ladies left the room Sir Henry said to Smythe "A capital young lady that, if she hadn't floored me with her Latin and Greek."
Miss Mary Clarke and her mother lived in apartments in the Rue du Bac which for nearly forty years were a haunt of all that was brilliant in the intellectual life of Paris. Her famous salon and soiree were world renown. Mary took most affectionately to the Nightingale family, who with some of their connections, remained for many years among her closest friends. She used to pay a yearly visit to Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale, either at Embley or at Lea Hurst, generally staying three weeks or a month; and to her many of Florence's most interesting letters were written.
She admired the relationship Mary Clarke had with her lover Julius Mohl, one of the first Orientalists in Europe, who she married after an affair of eighteen years. They treated each other as equals. He giving up his native Germany to live with her in France.
In May of 1837 the two Nightingale girls were taken on a two year tour of Europe. They traveled with many servants including Mrs. Gale the girls' nurse and a French maid. The coach was designed by W.E.N. and pulled by six horses. They had excellent contacts and attended many operas and concerts and dances. In Paris in 1839 they first met Mary Clarke.
Mary Clarke did not care for young ladies; in fact, she did not care for woman at all. "I do not like young ladies. I can't abide women. Why don't they talk about interesting things? Why don't they use their brains? My dear, they have no manners. I can't abide them in my drawing-room. What with their shyness and their inability to hold their tongues, they ain't fit for decent company. If your friend is a man, bring him without thinking twice about it, but if she is a woman, think well."
She was, however absurdly fond of children and regularly gave children's parties, and she acknowledged Fanny's letter of introduction by inviting the Nightingales to a "children's soiree."
One afternoon near Christmas they drove up to 120 rue du Bac. No servants were visible, but a clamor came from above. They walked up into a front drawing room crowded with dancing, singing children; no one took any notice of them, and they went through to the back drawing room where two impressive and eminent looking gentlemen were boiling a large black kettle over a log fire.
In the midst of the children, dancing , singing , and clapping her hands, was a forty five year old woman, no bigger than a child herself. Her hair falling over her forehead in a tangle of curls like a Yorkshire terrier and her eyes startlingly large and bright. This was Mary Clarke. The children began to play blind man's bluff, and without further ado Florence picked up her skirts and joined in. It was the happiest possible introduction. She was never so unselfconsciously gay as with children-indeed, all the Nightingales were past-masters in the art of amusing the young.
Mary Clarke was charmed by Parthe and Flo, their distinguished look, their good education and their eager interest in all they saw and heard. She pitied them when she thought of them as Ladies in English society for she had not won her present freedom without a long struggle. There had been a moment in her youth when she had written, "Oh, if somebody asked me 'would you rather be a woman or a galley-slave?' how quickly I should cry out 'Long live the galleys!' I am like a fine eagle in a small cage!"
Little wonder Florence was attracted to Clarkey, as they all came to call her and value her attention and advice.
Fanny smiled on the friendship.
Little did she suspect that Clarkey held some of the same radical and untraditional ideas as Florence. Fanny wanted Clarkey to be the family's intimate friend. Clarkey was to be the source from which she intended to collect "notabilities" to add luster to her parties at Embley. Clarkey was unconventional, but Clarkey was accepted by the best society and Fanny was satisfied.
But the young Florence was receiving impressions of which Fanny never dreamed.
The big, beautiful, world: the gilded cage she lived in, would be the envy of most. It was high society, fashion of the day, never full of work or responsibility. This was a facade. The dysfunctional, totally enmeshed Nightingale Family was almost always in one crisis or another. The two girls were so quarrelsome that often two different carriages were used to transport them to the same destination.
She wanted to be a good girl, exploit her beauty and charm and family into a good marriage and life that would make her father and especially her mother and sister proud of her and open even more doors for them all into the world of the rich and famous. Of course the Nightingales, while not being famous were already rich from the inherited property of W.E.N. The lead smelter which came with the inheritance was a constant source of money and problems from lead poisoning but enabled the Nightingales to live very well.
The small summer home in Lea had 14 bedrooms and they all went on trips to Europe lasting over a year at a time. But the girls could not inherit because of the "doctrine of coverture" laws in England at the time grouping women with "criminals, idiots, and minors" and making it illegal for women to inherit property or even file for divorce or get custody of their children. W.E.N. and Fanny needed a son to keep W.E.N.'s property. But although they conceived the girls on their European Honeymoon their was no other live births for the Nightingales' after their contact with Lea Hurst.
Richard Mockton Milnes was eleven years older than Florence when they first met. He instantly became infatuated with her.
It was said at the time that "if Christ came back to earth Richard Mockton Milnes would invite him to one of his famous 'breakfasts'."
He was a poet a cultivator of poets. He was interested in improving the lot of children in trouble with the law. He was handsome and wealthy. He was expected to be a great statesman and leader. He courted Florence Nightingale for seven years.
Milnes became like a member of the Nightingale Family. He visited often and they did many things together. It was a mutual admiration, he loved them and they loved him. But the truth was that Milnes was romantically and deeply involved in a desire to marry Florence and she played all the angles like she did previously with her cousin Henry.
Milnes was interested in reform work. He had a passion for helping the poor. He was instrumental in correcting a penal system that treated children as adults and put children, criminals and the insane together in the same institution. But he also was interested in the writings of Machiavelli and going to public hangings.
Once on a family outing they all went to lunch at someone's home. The host had a baby bear as a pet. Florence invited the bear in for lunch and it became wild after eating some butter off the table and having the host put a hat and cape on it. It scared the party guests. So Monckton Milnes used his power to "mesmerize." He soon had the animal completely under control and it was soon licking Florence's hand like a puppy and allowed its trainer to take it away without a problem.
For seven years he hung with the family. They talked, danced, ate and dreamed. Her of career and Mockton of marriage. Florence never said no, but away from him she was totally obsessed with her "call," her work. The work God had asked her to do, "work with the sick and poor" and she doubted if Milnes would let her do her work or work with her. She called him "the man I adore." But when he demanded an answer to his proposal for marriage... she refused him.
It shocked her and her world to the core.
He changed immediately to a cold distant demeanor which she understood but it tormented her. Her mother and sister had breakdowns and were sent off to take water-cures. Her father moved to his private club. She became depressed. She was 29 years old. Doomed now to be unmarried. Committed to a profession she was yet to invent and misunderstood by all around her except her Aunt Mai and Mary Clarke.
"I know that since I refused him not one day has passed without my thinking of him. That life is desolate without his sympathy. I know I could not bear his life. That to be nailed to a continuation, an exaggeration of my present life without hope of another would be intolerable to me that voluntarily to put it out of my power ever to be able to seize the chance of forming for myself a true and rich life would seem to me like suicide."
By autumn that year Miss Nightingale's mental and physical state was pitiable. She was far from well and fainted on several occasions. Sometimes her mind became blank and she looked at people wildly and vaguely not hearing what was said to her.
Milnes was later to confess at the time he had proposed to FN he was in love with Anabelle Crewe, a rich, beautiful, simple and domestic woman in the London scene. He proposed two years after proposing to Florence and she immediately accepted and they were married. She proved to be the "Strasburg Goose" that Monckton's friends accused him of desiring. Someone to be the "woman at home" for him. That certainly could never be FN.
He continued to be a friend of the family and some years later, before leaving England to nurse the British soldiers Richard Mockton Milnes, while visiting at the Nightingales' Lea Hurst summer home, wrote to her:
Oct 1854, Lea Hurst
"MY DEAR FRIEND,
I hear you are going to the East. I am happy it is so, for the good you will do there and the hope that you may find some satisfaction in it yourself. I cannot forget how you went to the East once before, and here I am writing quietly to you about what you are going to do now. You can undertake that when you could not undertake me. God bless you, dear Friend, wherever you go."
In 1851 Florence Nightingale spent three months at Kaiserwerth on the Rhine in Germany training as a nurse. She said later that the experience was almost worthless as a training ground. But as she relates in her Curriculum Vitae she had never really been alone her whole life. It was the first time she did her own hair and certainly the only time she ever put aside her upper class clothes as she wore the standard uniform of the other deaconesses. She kept to their regular schedule and ate the same simple food and scrubbed the floors the same as the rest.
She was in heaven. Her mother was in Hell!
It became obvious to all that although she was in her 30's she had no interest in domestic affairs and would not give up the dream to nurse. A compromise was reached. Her father's sister and her supporter, Aunt Mai, talked her mother into allowing her to supervise some kind of Home or Hospital situation nearby in England. In 1853 it became know that an Establishment-for-Gentlewomen-During-Illness, founded a few years before, at 8 Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, to give medical assistance and a home to sick governesses and other gentlewomen of narrow means, was looking for a superintendent. It had languished in its location and needed someone to give it new life. That, it was decided was Florence Nightingale.
A suitable new premises had been found at, No. 1 Upper Harley Street, and there Miss. Nightingale lived, with exception of a few brief intervals, from August 12, 1853 to October 1854. Her Aunt Mai had also taken her some lodgings in Pall Mall Street section of London where she went on Sundays so that the patients in Harley Street would not be scandalized by her habit of not attending church services. She also occasionally had visits with friends there. It was also agreed that she would take with her to Harley Street a Mrs. Clarke to be her personal chaperone, cook and assistant. Mrs. Clarke wound up going with F.N. to Scutari as a cook, where she broke down and had to be returned to England.
The Establishment was managed by a council, which in turn appointed a "Committee of Ladies" and a "Committee of Gentlemen." the terms of course meaning that they were a legal part of the upper class and had much power and money. Payment and contracts and hiring was delegated to the Gentlemen. But it was the Ladies that caused Miss Nightingale the most bother.
She demanded complete control and they demanded that she guarantee no religious conversions. Among the improvements she brought were hot running water on every floor. She also had a dumb-waiter hoist installed to bring food from the kitchen to the wards so that the patients would get warm food and the nurses did not have to go up and down the stairs every meal. As she said, "by the time they got the food to them it was cold." FN always insisted that nurses were not scrubbers and carriers.
She invented a call bell system for each patient so that the bell signaled to the nurse the patient needed attention. She had the medicines dispensed by a new house surgeon saving 150 pounds per year. She had flowers shipped from the family estate for the enjoyment of the patients. She began to experiment with her ideas of how colors of their surroundings affect the wellness of the patients. She began in her typical style to keep detailed accounts of finances and patient progress. She bragged to her father of her new found political skill in getting the committees to agree to all she asked. She also reworked the "Diet" trying out her new ideas of "Sick Diet" and worked up an advertisement for the Institution.
By such arts, and by such readiness to shoulder responsibility, Miss Nightingale reduced chaos to order, and her management of the Institution won praise in all quarters. As is the case with all great leaders and innovators, when a thing wanted to be done she did it herself.
From a letter to her father:
"The chemists, sent me a bottle of ether labeled 'S. spirits of nutria,' which if I had not smelt it, I should certainly have administered, and should have had an inquiry into poisoning. And the whole flue of a new gas stove came down the second time of using it, which, if I had not caught it in my arms, would certainly have killed a patient."
The Ladies on the Council and the Committee included women well known in the worlds of society and philanthropy. FN had her special friends and allies among them, such as Lady Channing and Lady Inglis, and Mrs. Sydney Herbert presently joined the Committee in order to lend her support.
Since their meeting in Rome, Sydney Herbert and his wife Elizabeth Herbert and Florence had become very close. They shared many ideas and values. Because the Herberts' home Wilton House was within calling distance of Embley Park they often saw each other daily. Florence had even assisted at the birth of one of Mrs. Herbert's children. In keeping with the Nightingale Family style Elizabeth was called Liz. She always supported her husband's work with Florence driving him on eventually to his death.
"I begin the New Year with more true feeling of a happy New Year than ever I had in my life."
She may have been happy but not her mother and sister.
Things at home were bad enough for her father to ask her to write to him at the Athenaeum Club. Where he was prone to hide from the feuding women.
At the beginning of her situation at Harley Street she received a letter from Paris from Clarkey. She was writing for Fanny and Parthe to whom Florence would no longer respond. They wanted to know"why Florence refused to live at home and never would even visit with them."
She wrote back:
"I do not wish to talk about it and this is the last time I shall ever do so but as you ask me in a plain question, Clarkey dear, I will give you a plain answer. I have talked matters over with Parthe, not once but thousands of times. Years and years have been spent in doing so. It has been, therefore, with the deepest consideration and with the fullest advice that I have taken the step of leaving home and it is a fait accompli...to serve my country in this way had been...the object of my life."
She never lived with them again until their dying years many years later. She then left her lodgings to be at their individual bed sides. But that was after an absence of over twenty years.
The Nightingale Family, having finished breakfast, retire to the parlor where W.E.N., and Parthenope read. Frances does worsted work. Mr. Nightingale and Parthe read the London morning papers remarking to Fanny about any particular article about Florence and the Crimean War. It is October 1854. We are at Embley Park.
"Oh, Fanny listen to this from THE EXAMINER," W.E.N. says,"Florence Nightingale is a young lady of singular endowments both natural and acquired. In a knowledge of the ancient languages and of the higher branches of mathematics in general art, science, and literature, her attainments are extraordinary. There is scarcely a modern language which she does not understand, and she speaks French, German, and Italian as fluently as her native English."
As he reads Frances sits in a chair with servants near by serving tea with little cakes. She hangs on every word and grimaces and shakes her head remembering what a struggle it all was.
He continues, "She has visited and studied all the various nations of Europe and has ascended the Nile to its remotest cataract."
Now the girls' old Nanny Mrs. Gale has come in the room and responds with positive smiles and remarks as more is read,
"Young, about the age of Queen Victoria. Graceful, feminine, rich, popular, she holds a singularly gentle and persuasive influence over all with whom she comes in contact. Her friends and acquaintances are of all classes and persuasions, but her happiest place is at home, in the center of a very large band of accomplished relatives and in simplest obedience to her admiring parents."
W.E.N. bursts out laughing. "What delightful poppy-cock," he shouts.
Frances shakes her head.
"Mother, Father, listen to this from THE TIMES:
"Miss Nightingale is one of those whom God forms for great ends, You cannot hear her say a few sentences-no, not even look at her, without feeling that she is an extraordinary being. Simple, intellectual, sweet, full of love and benevolence, she is a fascinating and perfect woman. She is tall and pale. Her face is exceedingly lovely; but better than all is the soul's glory that shines through every feature so exultingly. Nothing can be sweeter than her smile. It is like a sunny day in summer."
"And they have included a song about Florence. It is called THE NIGHTINGALES' SONG TO THE SICK SOLDIER. I will try to sing it."
She steps over the pianoforte, sits down and after a moment begins to sing:
"Listen soldier to the tale of the tender nightingale
Tis a charm that soon will ease your wounds so cruel
Singing medicine for your pain, in a sympathetic strain
With a jug, jug, jug of lemonade or gruel...."
Slowly we hear the sounds of the servants in the Nightingale estate as they busy themselves with the days chores.
We become aware of the beautiful estate and grounds and slowly change into night time interior corridor of the Barrack Hospital. It is very dark and we see a candle lamp and some figures. It is FN making evening rounds to check on her "special cases." She is accompanied by one of her nurses. She lights her way with a Turkish accordion style paper lantern which hangs from her hand. The Hospital is very quiet except for the breathing and coughing of the patients.
Also with her tonight is Thomas Chenery, the LONDON TIMES correspondent who wrote the stories responsible for England knowing of the need for nurses in the Barrack Hospital. He had since witnessed the transformation from filth and horror to order and cleanliness. The aura around her was heavenly and the awe felt by all was almost visible.
FN stops now to talk with a soldier and she mentions things to the nurse who writes on a tablet. They all walk very carefully for the beds are close together with just enough room in the center to walk. She attends to only the most serious cases. The others know they can not get her attention and so as her shadow falls upon their pillow they kiss it. This act is well noticed by Thomas Chenery. The next day THE LONDON TIMES carried a soldier's account of FN making her rounds and the Lady With The Lamp legend is born.
The legend caught on like wild fire.
A meeting was hurriedly called at which Sidney Herbert, her friend and colleague, and Secretary of War, read the account from THE TIMES of the Lady With The Lamp and the soldiers kissing her shadow. And it was decided to give her a present of a fund with which she may start a School for Nursing. People from every walk of life gave to the fund. Eventually she did start a school.
But now she was swamped with responsibility. Her little group of rooms in the corner of the building was a scene of controlled madness. Nuns, nurses, the cook, her dispatcher, the Bracebridges and whoever had business with Florence Nightingale would find her surrounded by everything imaginable: pots, pans, shirts, paper, tea pots, pillows, stump rests, and on and on. And a constant stream of Turks and merchant seamen delivering more packages that were "gifts" from people at home or items she herself had ordered with the TIMES FUND money she brought with her. All of this she kept careful accounts of in duplicate being the first British Army Commander of the first British Army Nurse Corps.
Six nurses show up with six soldiers in tow and announce their intentions to marry. One of Mrs. Roberts extra diet stoves blows up. It is removed and a new one pulled from the pile. Quickly assembled and is soon running. Alexis Soyer the French chef and his African assistant show up and present her with his latest culinary invention: a tea pot that serves 50. She is delighted. Lady Alicia Blackwell comes up from her grim task in the basement foundation work of the Barrack Hospital and announces five births and three deaths during the night from the soldiers wives and sweethearts who have been abandoned. They straggled back to live in dirt in the cellar of the hospital and turn tricks for cash and food. Florence was converting a nearby house into a laundry, with boilers and dryers. She plans to hire the women to work there. Lady Blackwell is organizing the women.
Suddenly her Matron appears to announce the arrival of 500 wounded in thirty minutes. They all, except for the Dispatcher and Mrs. Roberts, rush out and down the halls to prepare for their arrival.
Her abandoned plain deal desk, covered with papers, an ink well and pens with a letter addressed to,
Carolyn Fliedner, of KAISERSWERTH Hospital.
Nov 15, 1854
"My dearest Carolyn:
Well, we have arrived and are settled into our quarters. I cannot express to you the horror of the situation here. God grant me the strength to meet this challenge. But I must tell you that I do not know if I can live up to the challenge. If I never see you again. God bless you and Pastor Fliedner.
FN and her party left London Bridge on Saturday, October 21, to travel by sea to Boulogne then on by train to Paris. One night was to be spent in Paris and four nights in Marseilles, where she intended to buy a large quantity of miscellaneous provisions and stores in spite of the fact she had been told they have all they need. From Marseilles the party were to proceed to Constantinople in a fast mail boat, the VECTIS.
They reached Boulogne at dinner-time and were given an ovation. Many of the fisher-wives of Boulogne had sons and brothers in the French Army and they seized and shouldered the baggage and carried it in triumph to the hotel, refusing to accept payment. The landlord placed his establishment at the disposal of the party, had them order what they wanted for dinner and refused payment.
The party arrived at the Gare du Nord, train station, at 10 pm and was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd and cheered on the way to the hotel. The next day they left for Marseilles. On the 27th the party sailed on a converted mail carrier named the VECTIS. A larger crowd again turned out to cheer the party on its way. But the VECTIS was a horrible ship and the trip was so rough on the second day out that her guns had to be jettisoned and the stewards cabin and the galley were washed overboard. When they reached Malta FN was too weak from sea sickness to go ashore.
The rest of the party went sightseeing in the charge of a Major of Militia. The party was made up partly of Anglican sisters in black serge habits, partly of Roman Catholic nuns in white habits, and partly of hospital nurses in their gray Scutari uniforms. The hospital nurses were put in the middle and the Major marched the party from point to point in military formation.
The Major would shout, "Forward black sisters," and the Anglican sisters would move; but the white nuns would straggle, and there came a shout,
"Halt! Those damned white sisters have gone again." Malta was full of idle troops, and soon the party was followed by a crowd of soldiers.
On November 3, still in bad weather, the VECTIS, "blustering, storming and shrieking," rushed up the Bosphorus and anchored off Seraglio Point on the 4th.
Dr. John Hall, was career British Army. He had been stationed in India, in Bombay and solicited for a post at home in England. He was due for promotion. He became the Chief of Medical Staff of the British Expeditionary Army during the Crimean War. In October of 1854 upon declaration of war, Lord Raglan, Commander in Chief of the British Army sent Dr. Hall to inspect the hospitals that Florence Nightingale and her nurses were soon to occupy.
Dr. Hall was in a terrible mood. He hated his new assignment. He was capable of being very unpleasant. He was known throughout the army as a strict disciplinarian averse to pampering the troops. He did not believe in chloroform, and in his letter warning them against it's use he says,
"The smart use of the knife is a powerful stimulant and it is much better to hear a man bawl lustily than to see him sink silently into the grave."
His name had been associated with an unsavory case in which a private stationed at Houslow Barracks had died after receiving a flogging of 150 lashes.
Dr. Hall wrote on October 20,1854 that upon his inspection he
"was happy to inform that the whole hospital establishment, has now been put on a very creditable footing and that nothing is lacking."
It was a total lie.
There was nothing in the structures: The Barrack Hospital in Scutari directly across from Istanbul to be used for enlisted personnel and the General Hospital next door for the officers.
The truth is that the buildings were filthy and destitute of anything that would help a hospital staff. Including a clean working cistern and drain system for the toilets.
Dr. John Hall then set up his command post in the Crimea miles away from Miss Nightingale's post in Turkey. There were many hospitals in the Crimea which was Russian territory. He claimed Miss Nightingale's authority was limited to Turkey.
Dr. Hall formed a strong bond with a renegade nurse and her staff, the Reverend Mother Frances Bridgeman who came out uninvited with Mary Stanley's nurses. Miss Nightingale came to call her "Mother Brick Bat." They engaged in much conspiracy against her authority to command nurses in the Crimean War. A battle within the war that threatened at times to kill her.
She distrusted Dr. John Hall's words from the beginning. She brought with her money the LONDON TIMES had collected to help the troops and she had her own 500 pound a year allowance ($60,000 today) from her father. On the trip from England she had purchased items in Marseilles and more in Constantinople. She soon began to dispense items from her space in the "Nurses Tower" in the Barrack Hospital.
From August 1854 to May 1856 about 29,000 patients were admitted at the Barrack and General hospitals at Scutari. F.N. was resident at those hospitals from November 5, 1854 to July 28, 1856. During that time about 4,500 soldiers died, mostly during the first winter. F.N. testified she was never out of the hospitals and that she attended to 2,000 deaths that first winter.
During November, December, January, and February of that winter she records that 10,717 patients arrived. This is mass casualties on a level perhaps never seen before.
Here is a partial list of what she dispensed:
23,743 pairs of socks
6,843 pairs of drawers
and large quantities of comforters, flannel slippers, knives, and forks, spoons, night caps, gloves, mitts, drinking cups, tin plates, basins, dressing gowns, air beds and pillows, thread, tape, lanterns, candle lamps, lamps, preserved meats, biscuit gelatin, rubber sheets, cooking stoves, canteens, boilers, stew pans, tables, forms, bath soap, games, brooms, bedpans, tin pails, combs, scissors and more. "
In her own words she was "outfitting the entire British Army." Dr. John Hall and Mother Bridgeman deeply resented her "meddling" but the rank and file came to love her.
The soldiers who were living and dying in the filth and conditions beyond fixing to any but the mind of Florence Nightingale, were so startled by the presence of this upper class woman, her few friends, and the group of nuns and civilian nurses come to "nurse" them that they came to worship her like a god after she cleaned up the hospital and changed chaos to order. Her rounds each night, carrying an accordion paper lantern with a candle in it, with an accompanying nurse, took her past each patients bed. The change was miraculous. What was once a cesspool of filth with naked and near naked men screaming and dying helter-skelter was now order and cleanliness and quiet. The men never cursed or talked rudely around her. They knew she could not relate to every one of them so they contented themselves in kissing her shadow as it fell on their pillows as she made her rounds. And they wrote to their families home town papers of the wonders of Miss Florence Nightingale and her nurses.
All of this made Dr. Hall mad.
FN decided to travel to the Crimea to inspect the other hospitals. She had her friend the Secretary of War, Sydney Herbert issue in the "Orders of The Day" that she was indeed the:
"Nurse Commander in charge of all of the British Army Nurses in Turkey and Russia"
Dr. Hall was not going for it. She came uninvited. But once again that same instinctiveness that helped her before told her to bring her own provisions. This, as it came to pass ,saved her and her company of nurses, Charles Bracebridge, the London chef Alexis Soyer and her "little drummer boy" Robert Robinson of the 68th Light Infantry, as they were all refused provisions and given only shelter.
Once Miss Nightingale was made to stand in the snow for six hours waiting for someone to open up a hospital so she could inspect it. Perhaps because of this or her exhaustion she came down with "Crimean Fever" (typhus?).
A very sad caravan made up of soldiers and her party members carried her on a litter up the mountain to a small hut where a single nurse, Mrs. Roberts, cared for her. Her hair was shaved off as was the style of treatment then. Lord Raglan the Commander in Chief of the English Forces came alone one night identifying himself only as a "soldier" to see how she was doing. Everyone in the Army and at home worried over her recovery.
When almost recovered she determined to return to her duties in Scutari. Dr. Hall's organization made the arrangements for transport and at the last minute Charles Bracebridge determined that the ship was not going to Scutari but back to England. In her weakened state, with her predisposition to sea sickness the trip would most certainly have killed her. She was taken off the ship and put onto another bound for Scutari.
Dr. John Hall stuck to his "big lie" to the end. He refused to admit any responsibility for the many English deaths during the war and never changed his story that "nothing was lacking" in the hospitals. The Board of Inquiry appointed to investigate the many crisis and calamities of the Crimean War never found Dr. Hall at fault. He later received the English KCB making him a knight and Miss Nightingale remarked,
"Knight of the Crimean Burial Grounds is more like it."
A treaty of peace was signed in Paris on March 30th, 1856 by representatives of the warring parties: England, France, Sardinia, Turkey and Russia. Ending the Crimean War.
Not until all the hospitals were closed and the last remnant of the British Army was under sailing orders for home did Florence Nightingale quit the scene of her labors.
It had been 21 months the likes the world had never seen before. And now all of England indeed the world was aflame with 'Nightingale Fever' everyone wanted to see her and honor her for showing them the humanity and nobility of the common soldier and for bringing with her nurses and a system of nursing as a science and a profession that promised to add a touch of kindness and civility to the cruelty and madness of war.
But Florence would have none of it.
She convinced authorities to build a giant cross on the heights above the heights of Sabastopol. And a guaranty of the safety of the British Cometary at Scutari.
One of her last acts was to induce authorities to send home some 50-60 military wives who had been useful to the military until the end of the war and then abandoned. Like the wives and lovers who had straggled back to live under the Barrack Hospital. Miss Nightingale's vision always included not just the soldier but the entire military family, dependents and all. Never again would England ignore the needs of the military family or take for granted nursing. And never again would the British Army allow wives to travel with the Army to war hoping they would do the nursing.
She ignored all desire and request for fanfare. She traveled to Scutari to make sure all was finished in the Barrack Hospital and surrounding hospitals. She made sure that all of her nurses not only got home safely but had home and job to return to.
She declined the governments offer of a "Man-of-War" to take her home and embarked from Istanbul on a French vessel under the name of Miss Smith, still accompanied by her father's sister, her ever faithful champion, Aunt Mai Smith.
After a stop in Paris to visit the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul she proceeded to Boulogne and then on to England. She made a stop in Bermondsy to spend a day in prayer with the nuns and the Reverend Mother. Then on alone in the train. After a short walk up the road and down the drive she was back at Lea Hurst. Legend has it the housekeeper recognized her walking down the drive with her umbrella and carpet bag.
After the war it was feared she would die. She suffered the horrors of PTSD but no one understood it then. Her good friend and famous writer Harriet Marineau wrote her obituary, which was actually set up in type by the DAILY NEWS. Her physician and co-worker Dr. John Sutherland who had been with her in Scutari with the Sanitary Commission implored her to consume more than just English black tea and to cease her labors into the debacle of the war for fear she would die. She refused.
"I stand at the alter of the murdered men, and while I live I fight their cause."
She scribbled over and over again on bits of paper and in the margins of her work.
"No one can feel for the Army as I do. These people who talk to us have all fed their children on the fat of the land and dressed them in velvet and silk, while we have been away. I have had to see my children dressed in a dirty blanket and an old pair of regimental trousers, and to see them fed on raw salt meat, and nine thousand of my children died from causes which might have been prevented. They lie in their forgotten graves. But I can never forget. People must have seen that long, long dreadful winter to know what it was."
"I cannot live, forgive me, oh Lord, and let me die, this day, let me die"
"The day of personal hopes and fears is over for me, now I dread and desire no more. The plough goes over the soul."
She wrote and wrote.
She wrote by hand with a pen she dipped into an ink well. She made duplicates of what she wrote. She wrote definitive volumes that were destined to become the primers of the Military Hospital and Surgeons Corps and Nursing Corps for the British and eventually the world.
English coverture laws forbid her to sit on the official Board of Inquiry. And the men on the Board knew nothing so they submitted questions to her and she wrote the answers she wanted them to say complete with facts, figures and her new invention the pie graph to explain it all.
And she did not die. She went on to greater and greater works. Working with her staff of loyal followers in what was called the "Little War Room": her rooms at the Burlington Hotel in London. All the time being bothered by Fanny and Parthenope who took rooms next to her in the hotel and sat outside her rooms waiting for her to appear. She never gave them any time and when they checked out they stuck her with part of their bill.
Recluse from the world at large, becoming a living legend. She worked on into her 80's. She wielded her popularity, which was phenomenal the world over, having songs and statuettes and bags with her face and exploits on them and dozens of "life stories of the Lady with the Lamp, Miss Florence Nightingale, the Soldiers Friend, "
Her statistics proved that she had to change the British Army to save the British soldiers, to rebuild the hospitals to save the nurses, and to sanitize the whole county of India from her bedside by correspondence to save the British soldiers living there.
In 1859 she publishes a small book titled Notes on Nursing: What it is, and what it is not. It is translated into many languages and sells copies in the millions. It is the first book on health habits in the home and revolutionizes the way people clean house and take care of family members. It becomes the only "earned" income of her life.
In spite of her endless work she did not die. She lived to use the money the LONDON TIMES collected for her to start a nursing school.
On June 24, 1860, the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas' Hospital in London opened. Mrs. Wardroper was the Superintendent of the school but Miss Nightingale kept a close watch on everything that went on from her London flat. The School was the first of its kind and graduates went all over the world leading teaching serving and spreading the ideas and systems of F.N. The school was financially independent and unique in this way.
It exists to this day.
It was relationships with the student nurses and the relationships of family and her cats that took on greater and greater importance to her. She grew large and round and happy. Her notes have the paw prints in ink of her cats as they strolled across her work space. And she held audience with all student nurses sending them home with sweets and cakes and treats. Still the VIP of the world came to her flat in London by appointment only. Relatives would sit on her porch begging through the mail slot for "just a few minutes" but she paid no attention and saw only who she wished. Sometimes it would be a young relative whom she would advise to "never wear anything but real lace."
In 1890 the Thomas Edison Phonograph Company visited her in her South Street Apartment to record her voice for prosperity.
It is easy to picture the old lady, stretched out on her couch in her South Street Apartment. The sun pouring through the windows highlighting her almost Zen concept of decorating: white walls, flowers and her cats. Maybe one or two in her lap as the engineers set up there totally new cylinder recorder and microphone.
At 70 years the brilliant mind is still able to see the future. This time it is her own. Her thoughts are still with her beloved Crimean Veterans. She says,
"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."
At 85 we have documents that record her still vibrant mind. But she began to slow down. In the last years of her 90 years, the mind that saw what no-one else could see, the mind that took on the pain and misery of countless thousands began to fail. The single person who by her thought and actions had caused both soldier and nurse, to be respected as professionals.
First her sight and then her mind began to fail.
The Queen of Nurses now had her own nurse. And every night her nurse would tuck her in and then retire to her own bed. But the reluctant patient, still the 'forever nurse', would get out of bed... and tuck her own nurse in.
Before her death she directed that her body should be given "for dissection or post-mortem examination for the purposes of Medical Science." This was not done. But in deference to her wishes the offer of a national funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey was declined. She was buried in the family plot in East Wellow close to Embley Park. She was carried by six sergeants of the British Army.
The Family Tombstone reads
"F.N. BORN 1820 DIED 1910."
She had lived for ninety years and three months.