May 12th is Florence Nightingale’s birthday and also the final day of National Nurses Week. We thought it would be fitting to create a post dedicated to Nightingale, who is known by many to be the founder of modern nursing. To keep things interesting, here are some of the little-known facts associated with Nightingale. Without further ado, the 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Florence Nightingale:
- Nightingale Was Born in Italy
Nightingale’s parents were both British, but she was actually born in Florence, Italy, which she was named after. Her family returned to England the year after her birth, where she had an upper-class upbringing. Interestingly, Nightingale’s older sister, Frances Parthenope, was also born outside of England and also named after the city of her birth.
- She Was a Polyglot
Florence Nightingale was a polyglot, which means she mastered several different languages. She fluently spoke English, German, French, and Italian, and she also had an understanding of both classical Greek and Latin. At an early age, her father, who was a Cambridge graduate, supervised her education and sparked her early interest in language.
- Her Parents Didn’t Want Her in Nursing
When Nightingale first told her parents about her interest in nursing, they were less than pleased. Of course, back in the early-to-mid 1800s, nursing wasn’t the respected profession it is today. Instead, it was seen as a low-paying job for women of low social status.
- The Press Loved Her
Often seen caring for wounded soldiers well into the night, Nightingale earned one of her most well-known nicknames, “The Lady with the Lamp,” when an article in the London Times covered her efforts in Crimea. After the details of Nightingale’s hard work hit the press, she became a popular figure throughout the United Kingdom.
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- The Queen Admired Her
Before leaving Crimea, Nightingale received a brooch from Queen Victoria as a sign of royal appreciation and personal thanks. Eventually, in 1856, Nightingale met the Queen in person. In 1883, Nightingale met the Queen again when she was awarded the Royal Red Cross in Windsor.
- She Was an Author and an Educator
In 1859, Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing was published. Her book covered a variety of patient-care principles, and many nursing students read it to this day. In 1860, she founded The Nightingale Training School in London, a school where many of the finest nurses of the 19th century were trained. Today, it still exists as an academic school within King’s College London.
- She Trained America’s First Nurse
Linda Richards, who is widely regarded as America’s first trained nurse, attended Nightingale’s school in 1877. It’s said that Nightingale personally worked with Richards during her time there. When Richards returned to the United States, she played a major role in establishing nursing schools across the nation. After that, Richards traveled to East Asia where she helped to establish and supervise Japan’s first training school for nurses.
- She Improved Sanitation in England
Most nurses know that one of the ways Florence Nightingale saved lives during the Crimean War was by making conditions more sanitary for patients. What many don’t know, however, is that she pushed for similar improvements outside of the hospital setting. Her efforts paid off when legislation forcing existing buildings to connect to main drainage passed as part of the Public Health Act of 1874.
- She Was an Order of Merit Recipient
To be a bit more specific, Florence Nightingale was the first woman ever to be made a member of the Order of Merit, which was established by King Edward VII in 1902. The Order of Merit aims to celebrate those who have achieved great things in the fields of science, education, literature, or art. It’s a very exclusive honor, with only 24 living members in the order at any given time. Obviously, Nightingale was very deserving of that honor.
- Her Family Turned Down a National Funeral
Sadly, on August 13, 1910, Florence Nightingale passed away in her London home. An offer was extended for a national burial at Westminster Abbey, but Nightingale’s family declined. Instead, in accordance with her last wishes, Nightingale was buried in her family’s plot at St. Margaret’s Church, East Wellow, in Hampshire, England.
Do you know any other interesting facts about Florence Nightingale? If so, be sure to share them by posting a comment below!