Florence Nightingale

The Nurses’ Uniform

Engraving after a photograph by J. E. Mayall, 1855.
From Cecil Woodham-Smith's Florence Nightingale, p. 94:

Miss Nightingale refused to admit “ladies,” as such, into her party. All must be nurses; all must eat the same food, have the same accommodations, wear the same uniform, except the nuns and sisters, who were allowed to wear their habits. And the uniform was extremely ugly. It consisted of a gray tweed dress, called a “wrapper,” a gray worsted jacket, a plain white cap, and a short woolen cloak. Over the shoulders was worn a holland scarf described as “frightful,” on which was embroidered in red the words “Scutari Hospital.” There was no time to fit individual wearers: various sizes were made up and issued as they came in, with unhappy results. Small women got large sizes; tall women got small. That a “lady” could be induced to appear in such a get-up was certainly a triumph of grace over nature, wrote one of the nuns. The uniform had not been designed to make the wearer look attractive. Scutari was a disorderly camp, teeming with drink-shops, prostitutes, and idle troops, and a distinguishing dress was necessary for the nurses’ protection. A Crimean veteran told Sir Edward Cook that he saw a nurse seized by a soldier in the street of Scutari, but the man’s mate recognized the uniform. “Let her alone,” he said, “don’t you see she’s one of Miss Nightingale's women.”

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