Mary Seacole

(1805-1881) the daughter of a free black woman and Scottish soldier, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. At an early age she learned traditional medicine from her mother, and soon earned a reputation as a skilled healer/doctor. In 1851 she joined her brother in Panama during the goldrush playing a vital part in the nursing of a cholera epidemic.

On arrival in London in 1854, she heard of the collapse in the nursing system in the Crimea. Mrs Seacole immediately offered her services and experience but was rejected on the grounds of her colour. She eventually financed her own journey to the Crimea where she opened a camp and store providing medicine to the wounded.

On her return she found herself penniless. Many soldiers contributed in organising a benefit in her name, insistent that her work was not to be forgotten. On the twenty-fourth of November, 1856, The Times published a letter stating: "While the benevolent deeds of Florence Nightingale are being handed down to posterity...are the humble actions of be entirely forgotten".

The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (first published in 1857) recalls her experiences in London, The Crimean War, the Caribbean and America. It is invaluable as a chronicle of black female experience in the Nineteenth Century.

Mrs Seacole was a woman of courage, strength, determination and humility. Whilst in the Crimea she won the love and respect of soldiers of all ranks who became dependant on her. She is buried in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Harrow Road, London.

She did not spare herself...In rain and snow, in storm and tempest, day after day she was at her self chosen post, with her stove and kettle, in any shelter she could find, brewing tea for all who wanted it, and there were many. Sometimes more then 200 sick would be embarked in one day, but Mrs Seacole was always equal to the occasion.

The Assistant Surgeon, 90th Light Infantry, 1855.