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Nightingale, Florence: Correspondence and Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0261
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: Nightingale, Florence: Correspondence and Papers
Date(s): 1876-1956
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 5 letters and 3 copies of photographs
Name of creator(s): Nightingale | Florence | 1820-1910 | reformer of hospital nursing


Administrative/Biographical history:

Florence Nightingale was born Villia Columbia, Florence, in 1820. She lived in Embley Park, Hampshire and was educated by her father. She recorded in 1837, that 'God had called her to His service.' She became interested in the mystics and studied the lives of people such as St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. She travelled to the religious community at Kaiserwerth-am- Rhein, where she saw the possibility of changing nursing by training suitably motivated women of any class. She published an anonymous account of the community, The Institution of Kaiserwort on the Rhine for the Practical Training of Deaconesses, (1851). On her return to England she continued her interest in nursing, and accepted the post of unpaid superintendant to the Institute for Sick Governesses in Harley Street, London. She became an expert in hospital administration, demanding improvements in facilities, and insisting that Roman Catholics be admitted as patients. She assisted in the cholera epidemic in Soho, in 1851. When the Crimean War broke out in 1854, Sidney Herbert, Secretary of State at War, wrote to Nightingale asking her to take a party of nurses to Scutari, to help the neglected wounded. She took a party of 38 nurses to Scutari to assist at the 4 hospitals, in 1854, where she ensured conditions were improved. She used money from The Timesnewspaper to buy much needed equipment and improve hygiene. She insisted on attending to all the worst cases herself and made a point of visiting all the wards. Appalled by the inadequate feeding arrangements she persuaded Lord Panmure, Secretary of State for War to arrange for Alexis Soyer, Chef at the Reform Cub, to come out and organise the cooking. She proved a formidable administrator and organiser and her role at Scutari was as much that of a 'General Purveyor' as of a medical nurse. She collapsed with Crimean Fever (which she referred to as Typhus) in 1855. On her recovery she returned to Scutari to continue working. When news of her illness reached Britain there were prayers for her recovery and The Times referred to her as 'The Lady of the Lamp'. Many people made gifts to help her in her work, and raised 45,000. She returned to England after the war and set up a reform cabinet and established a highly effective relationship with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She managed to establish a Royal Commission, with Sidney Herbert as chairman, in 1857, and published her report Notes on matters affecting the health, efficency and hospital administration of the British Army, in 1858. She was also made a member of the Statistical Society, in 1858. She became an invalid in 1858, but continued to work for the promotion of sanitary science, the collection of statistics, the design of hospitals, and reform of nursing and midwifery services. She campaigned for a pure water supply in 1861, and stressed the importance of irrigation and sanitary reform in India. She used part of the Nightingale Fund to finance an experimental training scheme for midwives at King's College Hospital. She assisted the Association for Improving Workhouse Infirmaries which eventually resulted in the Metropolitan Poor Law Act (1867). She used the Nightingale Fund to provide a training scheme for nurses based at the Highgate Poor Law Infirmary, and in 1881, for a team of Nightingale Nurses at the St Marylebone Institute, thus laying the foundations for training nurses in the new municipal hospitals after the Local Government Act (1888). She conducted a survey with Florence Lees in 1874, which resulted in the Report of the National Association for Providing Trained Nurses for the Sick Poor. In 1875 the Metropolitan and National Nursing Home was opened in Bloomsbury. She was the recipient of many honours including membership of the German Order of the Cross of Merit, and the French Secours aux Blesses Militaires. She became the first woman to be made a member of the Order of Merit, in 1907. She died in 1910.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Florence Nightingale, 1876-1956, comprising notes on sick nursing addressed to the editors of Every Girl's Magazine, 19 Nov 1881; photographs of autograph labels for Nightingale's collection of shells. Including a letter from G Ellis Flack from Nottingham University, where the shell collection is now housed, 1951; autograph in pencil; correspondence with Dr John Shaw Billings, 23 Oct 1876-4 Dec 1876, requesting advice from Nightingale on the building of a hospital in Baltimore by the Johns Hopkins Trust; and 2 letters relating to the efforts to locate the correspondence, Apr-May 1956.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By written appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No photocopying permitted.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The provenance of this material is not known.

Allied Materials

Related material:

A letter from Florence Nightingale to Sir James Paget, 1871 (Paget collection); and a letter in the Hunter Baillie Papers - number 225, old volume 4.2 (MS0014/7).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.
Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Vol 40, OUP 2004.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2008

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