The annual British National Health Service Mary Seacole Leadership and Development Awards will be presented to nurses who have made outstanding contributions to minority health.
A contemporary of Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole was a biracial woman whose mother served her community in Kingston, Jamaica as a ‘doctress’. Nurse Seacole built on her mother’s herbal and folk medicine knowledge with travel and original research, and offered her help to Britain during the Crimean War.
In my country, where people know our use, it would have been different; but here (England) it was natural enough that they should laugh, good-naturedly enough, at my offer… Once again I tried, and had an interview this time with one of Miss Nightingale’s companions. She gave me the same reply, and I read in her face the fact, that had there been a vacancy, I should not have been chosen to fill it… Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?
Undeterred, Mary Seacole set up her own hospital and saved countless lives. If racism and misogyny had not conspired to suppress and erase her accomplishments, nursing would have followed a more humane and effective path to healing. Today we are rediscovering some of the natural treatments and harm reduction approaches that Mary Seacole pioneered. Nurse, author and researcher– Mary Seacole should be remembered and recognized for what her work can teach us today.