Happy Birthday, Florence!
May 12th 2020 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. She became famous for taking a team of 38 nurses to the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, Turkey, where they tended to soldiers injured in the Crimean War.
Florence Nightingale and her nurses transformed the filthy, ill-equipped hospital, making sure it was clean and that the men were well cared for. She changed nursing from a largely untrained job into a highly skilled and respected profession. She is considered to be the founder of modern nursing.
Do You Know These Lesser Known Facts?
- Her parents named her Florence because she was born in Florence, Italy
- In 1850, whilst visiting Athens, she found an injured owl. She then nursed it back to health and took it home with her. She called the owl Athena. It was often sat on her shoulder or in her pocket.
- She loved cats. In her life time she is thought to have had 60 cats, including cats called Mr Bismarck, Gladstone and Disraeli.
- Jimmy the tortoise served as a ward pet for the soldiers in the Scutari Hospital
- By the time she returned home from the Crimea, Florence was famous. Not liking fuss, she sneaked back into the country under the name “Miss Smith”.
- She received many gifts in recognition of her great work. The gifts included a diamond bracelet from the Sultan of Turkey and a brooch from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, which had been designed by the Prince.
- She was the first woman in the world to be awarded the Order of Merit. This is an honour given by the monarch to people who have done amazing work in the armed forces, science, art or literature.
- When she died, the government wanted to bury her in Westminster Abbey, but Florence Nightingale did not like fuss. She was buried according to her wishes in her family’s cemetery plot at St Margaret’s Church, East Wellow in Hampshire.
- The world celebrates her birthday as International Nurses Day.
Hear Florence’s Voice
She may have been born 200 years ago, but Florence lived long enough that the first recordings were beginning to be made. The Florence Nightingale Museum in London has made a rare, nearly 130-year-old recording available on its website. You can hear the 70-year-old Florence’s own voice!