Florence Nightingale: Journey Through Her Stationery

15 years back I had read the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book on life of Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith. Impressed by her non-conformist lifestyle, I made notes, scribbled on the blank corners of the book and decided to treasure the book for life. Fascinated about her personal life than her medical achievements, I drank every word and every thought from Cecil Woodham-Smith’s Book – Nightingale’s contemplation on love, marriage, and call from the divine.

Today is International Nurses Day. As I opened the newspaper and saw Florence Nightingale’s old black and white picture, words from Cecil’s Biography came to me. Today world remembers Nightingale for her achievements in nursing. But for me it was the making of that Compassionate-Lady-Whose-Shadow-the-Soldiers-Kissed that interested me more. Her struggle as a young girl growing up in an aristocratic society and her rebellious yet self-conflicting thoughts were so endearing…

“She worked in secret. She got up before dawn and wrote by candle- light, wrapped in a shawl. Notebook after notebook was filled with a mass of facts, compared, indexed, and tabulated. She wrote privately for reports to M. Mohl in Paris; she procured information on hospitals in Berlin from the Bunsens. In the cold dark mornings she laid the foundation of the vast and detailed knowledge of sanitary conditions which was to make her the first expert in Europe. Then the breakfast- bell rang, and she came down to be the Daughter at Home.” – Cecil Woodham-Smith.

So month followed month — it seemed without progress or event, but in her character a profound change was taking place. “I feel,” she wrote in a private note of 1846, “as if all my being were gradually drawing together to one point.” She decided that her longing for affection, her susceptibility were too powerful for safety and she began deliberately to detach herself from human relationships. Love, marriage, even friend- ship, must be renounced. So in September, 1 846 she wrote to Hilary Bon- ham Carter: “Are not one’s earthly friends too often Atalanta’s apple, thrown in each other’s M’ay to hinder that course, at the end of which is laid up the crown of righteousness? So, dearest, it is well that we should not see too much of each other. . . . Farewell my beloved one.” In a private note she wrote: “Oh God, no more love. No more marriage O God.”

Thanks to The Florence Nightingale Digitization Project began in 2014 you can now access 1900 letters handwritten or narrated by Florence Nightingale.

A drawing of Florence Nightingale with her patients in Scutari hospital in Turkey.

A drawing of Florence Nightingale with her patients in Scutari hospital in Turkey.

Many names of Florence Nightingale – “Angels with Sweet Approving Smiles,” “The Star in the East,” “The Shadow on the Pillow,” “The Soldier’s Cheer.”

FNM336865  Credit: Medicine chest owned and used by Florence Nightingale in the Crimea (mixed media) by  Florence Nightingale Museum, London, UK/ The Bridgeman Art Library Nationality / copyright status: out of copyright

FNM336865
Credit: Medicine chest owned and used by Florence Nightingale in the Crimea (mixed media) by
Florence Nightingale Museum, London, UK/ The Bridgeman Art Library
Nationality / copyright status: out of copyright

“I had 3 paths among which to choose,”. she wrote on July lo,
1850. “I might have been a married woman, or a literary woman, or a
hospital sister. And now it seemed to me as if quiet with somebody to
look for my coming back were all I wanted.”

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Turkish candle lantern or lamp from Scutari Hospital, used during the Crimean War

 

Writing slate in an inscribed, wooden frame. Given to Florence Nightingale by her mother on 11th October, 1830.

Writing slate in an inscribed, wooden frame. Given to Florence Nightingale by her mother on 11th October, 1830.

Anatomy sketch book complied by Florence Hay Thornburn while at the Nightingale Training School. Sketches are mainly in black pen with coloured pencil shading and anatomy parts labelled. Inscribed in front in blue ink and dated 1915.1186_DSC9434

Pen and inkwell used by Florence Nightingale during the Crimea War, given to her by a Crimean nurse, Sister Mary Burdett. The pen is bone or ivory with a metal nib and the inkwell is glass within a in metal cannister.

0231_DSC1638

Image Credit: BBC UK, Florence Nightingale Collections and The Florence Nightingale Digitization Project

“New photo of ‘Lady of the Lamp'”. BBC News. 6 August 2006. Retrieved 7 August 2008.

 

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