From Nursing Clio by Peter Sleeth:
While Florence Nightingale is legendary in the history of nursing because of her foundational role in the creation of Western healthcare systems, she was not the only important woman in this history. It is perhaps unsurprising that the white, English-born, Nightingale’s contribution to modern nursing eclipses that of her contemporary, Mary Seacole, a mixed-race Jamaican woman.
Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805 to a black Jamaican mother and white British father. Seacole’s mother fostered her love for the care of others, while her father instilled in her the desire to travel. Seacole grew up among her father’s army, navy, and medical corps colleagues and assisted in her mother’s boarding house, preparing and using traditional African creole medicines derived from enslaved practices and practicing nursing techniques when providing wound care for visiting patients.1
This unique education led to Seacole’s travels to Central America, England, and later the Crimea, as a sutler selling medical supplies to companies and the military. She was determined to provide medical care in the face of adversity, in both her own personal struggle with racial prejudice and when ministering to the health crises of others.