Mary Seacole (1805-1881)

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Albert Challen (b.1847, d.1881)
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Mary Seacole (1805-1881)
Oil on panel, held by the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Copyright: National Portrait Gallery
Mary Seacole, born and raised in Jamaica, had an interest in medicine and nursing from a young age. Aged only 12, she helped her mother run a boarding house in Kingston, where many of the guests were sick and wounded soldiers. She learnt about traditional Jamaican treatments and remedies from her mother and army doctors staying at the boarding house. In 1850, Seacole used her skills to help people during the Cholera outbreak in Kingston.

At the start of the Crimean War, Seacole travelled to Britain to ask the British War Office to let her help wounded soldiers in Ukraine. Despite her valuable education and experience, the War Office declined her offer.

Seacole persisted with her desire to help by raising money for herself to travel to Balaclava in Ukraine and set up the British Hotel, where she tended to sick and wounded soldiers. She also treated soldiers on the battlefield and became known as 'Mother Seacole'.

After the war, she returned to England penniless with ill health. The newspapers discovered her story, and in 1957 Queen Victoria's nephew hosted a charity event in her name to raise money for her.

Seacole received several medals for her bravery from the governments of many countries. She also published a memoir titled 'The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands'.
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Subject Person and Role
Mary Seacole (b.1805, d.1881)

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