Friday, May 18, 2007

Honoring Florence Nightingale and all nurses

Today the Episcopal Church remembers Florence Nightingale. (1820-1910)

I want to honor all nurses along with her, and may add a bit to this post later in the day. (My blogging is going to get sporadic the next few weeks while I retreat to work on a Big Academic Tome and other personal writings offline.)

Meanwhile, here are some biographies. Read 'em. This is one interesting woman.

There is a good bio at the Daily Office site. Go here and then scroll down (below Canticle 18) and click on Florence Nightingale's name for the bio by James Keifer.

From the Florence Nightingale Museum in the U.K.

From Spartacus School U.K. online.

This one, shorter, has a focus on the conditions patients endured in FN's day.

Note how appalling the nursing and medical conditions were in Nightingale's day and how much she changed them!

Life-giving God, who alone have power over life and death, over health and sickness: Give power, wisdom, and gentleness to those who follow the example of your servant Florence Nightingale, that they, bearing with them your Presence, may not only heal but pain and fear; through Jesus Christ, the healer of body and soul, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
************From the Daily Office site


Ken said...

Funny or not, I tried to post to this and it did not take. The gist was that Nightingale as to the welfare of soldiers and the hospitalized the world over what the Hungarian OBHYN Ignaz Semmelweis was to birthing women: a deliverer, a secular savior if you like.

Jane R said...

Blogging software may have gotten temperamental. (Or maybe it's just you ;-) Sorry, couldn't resist -- it's okay folks, I know Ken from before blogging so I can tease him.)

Yes, quite so, though I just read somewhere that she shouldn't be credited as the inventor of modern nursing, someone else was, but this doesn't at all minimize her extraordinary contribution.

Others by the way who were pioneers were RC nun-nurses. They were nurses in the U.S. already during the Civil War and there are now some books and articles out about this. Very impressive stuff. The history of nuns in social work, nursing, and hospital administration has been greatly underreported, but there is now a whole crew of historians with expertise in both women's history and Catholic history who are remedying this.

Ken said...

First, when I type late at night my command of language vanishes. Anyway...I also thought of Clara Barton, who was a lot more than a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike. She didn't invent nursing either, but she fought like hell to make it respectable during the American Civil War. It's said she screened her nurses by looks because she was on a seriously large mission to professionalize nursing in this country. So if you were too attractive, there was a fear you might either be a whore or be taken for one by the troops themselves or by critics of the idea that women can nurse men in military hospitals.

Years back I read Charles Morris' history of American Catholicism, and he pointed out that for women, the convent could be a salvation from drunken husbands, abuse, endless pregnancies, and early death. A nun could become a parish administrator, a teacher, a nurse.

Cardinal Dennis Dougherty of Philadelphia, an early champion of women in the Church, convinced the Pope back in the 1920s to allow nursing sisters to attend women in childbirth. He asked one question: "Your Holiness, who was it that attended St. Elizabeth during the birth of John the Baptist?" Bam. Permission granted. Dougherty, reputed to be a tyrant and real SOB in most ways, nevertheless knew who really ran the world:-).