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Who was Florence Nightingale?

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Florence Nightingale, (1820-1910) was a British reformer of hospital nursing, born in Florence. While quite young she did much philanthropic and social work in Nightingale England, and in 1844 visited many hospitals and reformatories in Europe. In 1851 she trained as a nurse at an institution of the Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine, and on her return to England devoted herself to the Governesses' Sanatorium in connection with the London Institute. At the beginning of the Crimean War, appalled by the sufferings of the wounded, Florence Nightingale volunteered her services and sailed in 1854 with a party of 38 nurses, including Sisters of Mercy from England and Ireland. Among the Irish nurses who worked with her was Sister Mary Joseph Croke.

An interesting sidelight on Florence Nightingale's work in the Crimea is afforded by her letter from Balaclava Hospital to Mother Clare Moore of Bermondsey: 'Your going home is the greatest blow I have had yet. But God's blessing and my love and gratitude go with you as you will know. You were far above me in fitness for the general Superintendency both in worldly talent of administration and far more in the spiritual qualification which God values in a Superior. My being placed over you in our unenviable reign of the East was my misfortune and not my fault'.

Her self-sacrificing services to the wounded made her name famous throughout Europe.

She wrote several pamphlets on nursing and hospitals, and a fund, the interest on which amounts to about £1600 per annum, was raised in 1857 for the purpose of training nurses, now carried out at St Thomas's and King's College Hospitals. She received the Order of Merit in 1907. The Verney-Nightingale papers afford interesting details of her relations with Benjamin Jowett (who wanted to marry her) , Richard Monckton Milnes (also a great admirer), Sidney Herbert, and the poet Arthur Hugh Clough, both also intimate friends.

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