Wednesday, February 3, 2010

47: The Self-Empowered Woman: Florence Nightingale

Dear Followers,

Today I'd like to share the story of a most unlikely Self-Empowered Woman. Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 (in Florence, Italy), and died in her sleep on August 13, 1910 in London. During her lifetime she initiated the role of women as nurses, and profoundly improved conditions for soldiers in the UK and abroad.

Unlike most Self-Empowered Women, Florence Nightingale's father played both a supportive and a dependable role in her life. As an adult Nightingale was lucky enough to be the recipient of an annual income from her father of £500 a year, which would be about $50,000 in today's currency. And when she was younger, she was lucky enough to have a father who--unlike most parents of that era--believed that women should be educated. He personally taught her Italian, Greek, Philosophy, History, Writing and Mathematics. The latter would be particularly helpful to her when, as a health advocate, she became one of the first people to present her arguments using visual presentations, statistical graphics and pie charts.

In other ways, however, Nightingale possessed her fair share of SEW traits. Her decision, in 1845, to enter nursing incurred the intense anger and disapproval of her family, particularly her mother (17: Dreaming Your Own Dream).

And her love life appears to have been both complicated and chaste. She was courted by Richard Monckton Milnes, the first Baron Houghton, Sidney Herbert (who was married, but became a lifelong friend and mentor), and Benjamin Jowett (15: Forget About Prince Charming).

Both in England in 1837, and while in Egypt in 1850, she confessed to feeling "called to God," and watching the deaconesses and Pastor Theodor Fliedner, who worked for the sick and deprived for Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein she felt that the experience was "a turning point in her life" (3: Befief in the Unbelievable).

Thanks to Nightingale (known as "The Lady With the Lamp" because she visited and cared for the injured soldiers at night) the death rates for the wounded during the Crimean War dropped from 40% to 2%, primarily because of her impact on improved sanitation and better living conditions.

Nightingale endured a nervous breakdown and was often bedridden and suffered from severe depression (12: Hard Times). And even though she paved the way for women everywhere to have more opportunities, she had little patience for those who adhered to the traditional, restrictive female roles (5: Life is Not a Popularity Contest).

In addition to her work in the field of health, Nightingale was a prolific author, and her honors, statues, and namesake hospitals serve as reminders of the profound contributions she made during her lifetime. The annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on May 12, her birthday.

Looking forward to your comments...


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Hi Lucy, so happy you are enjoying the blog. Have you read, "The Self-Empowered Woman" yet? If you become a subscriber you should be able to get each of my postings automatically. Thanks for writing! Marilyn