Florence Nightingale

by frances 11. August 2010 21:05

I heard a great program today coming to work on Florence Nightingale (Rear Vision, 11th August 2010).


Florence Nightingale circa 1850: Photo - H. Lenthall, London (Wikimedia Commons)

This program was celebrating her life on the centenary of her death. What was interesting was the different ideas about what Florence Nightingale had achieved.

Professor Andrew Lambert, King's College, London, said: "I think like all eminent Victorians, to go back to Lytton Strachey's great debunking book of the 1920s, her reputation has gone from being absolutely iconic in the late Victorian-Edwardian era; at the time of her death she was one of the most famous people in the world. She was then viciously and systematically debunked and by the 1980s people were saying that she was just a power-crazed harridan who made the lives of everybody trying to do a job out there miserable, and in the interests of her own agenda. And we're now swinging back towards a more balanced position. But somebody like Florence Nightingale is always going to be of interest, and there will always be a debate: did she do good things? Did she achieve what she said she achieved? Indeed, did she achieve half the things that the newspapers claimed for her, or was she just somebody who happened to be in the right place at the right time? And I think that debate will go on because the results of her work in the Crimea are not absolutely clear-cut, it's not absolutely certain that she made a major difference. And the evidence of her own writings is that she was deeply dissatisfied with the consequences of her work in the Crimea, and pressed on for the rest of her life working in many ways to try and improve on that situation.
So was she the latter-day saint of late Victorian hagiography? No, certainly not. We have to see these people in the round. She was by no means perfect but she was one of the few people of that age who really did make a difference."

What a great WebQuest to create on this important historical figure!

If you want to explore the issues around Nursing in the Australian context, read up about Lucy Osburn (1835 - 1891) - this story also would make for a great WebQuest

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