Sue Young Histories

Florence Nightingale 1820 - 1910

November 22, 2007

nightingaleFlorence Nightingale 1820 - 1910 was a patient of homeopath James Manby Gully and she called him a ’genius’, and she also had homeopathic nurses (Anon, Medicine: Homeopathy, Time Magazine, (Monday, May 27, 1940)) with her in the Crimea, and she mentored Linda Richards, an American nurse who trained at the Brooklyn Homeopathic School. (See also Elizabeth Jenkins, The shadow and the light: a defence of Daniel Dunglas Home, the medium, (H. Hamilton, 1982). Page 112. ’… but Florence Nightingale who was there [at Gully’s establishment in Malvern] in 1860, had written to Edwin Chadwick; ‘of all the Malvern doctor, Dr. Gully has the most genius’. Though he preferred homeopathy because it used the smallest possible quantity…’)

Thomas Graham Balfour was a member of  Florence Nightingale‘s inner circle and Florence was also a friend of William Francis Cowper Temple 1st Baron Mount Temple (1811-1888),

In 1890, Florence Nightingale agreed that (Florence Nightingale, Lynn McDonald (Ed.), Florence Nightingale : an Introduction to Her Life and Family, (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2001). Page 402) James Peddie Harper should see her sister Frances Parthenope Verney (1819-1890)who had refused to consult Andrew Clark 1st Baronet again as he had made her condition worse. Nightingale also wrote to her mother that she hoped her father would try homeopathic treatment for an eye problem (Dana Ullman, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. (North Atlantic Books, 2007). Page 216).

Harriet Martineau was a fervent supporter of Florence Nightingale and actively supported her friend in her work. Harriet Martineau wrote to Florence Nightingale in 1860: ‘I am much further in approbation of homeopathy (than you are), (having watched it for twenty three years). ‘I am as sure as I can be of anything future that it will supersede any other principle and method yet known.’ Harriet Martineau also tells Florence Nightingale that the Town Council in Liverpool has voted money for homeopathic dispensaries, which had eased the ‘dreadful paucity’ of qualified practitioners there.

Florence Nightingale lived at a time when allopathy and homeopathywere competing for dominance in medical care. Nightingale’sphilosophy of health and healing was more similar to the holisticphilosophy of homeopathy than to the mechanistic philosophyof allopathy.

In Notes on Nursing, first published in England in 1859 and in America in 1860, Nightingale says:

Homeopathy has introduced one essential amelioration in the practice of physic by amateur females; for its rules are excellent, its physicking comparatively harmless—the “globule” is the one grain of folly which appears to be necessary to make any good thing acceptable. Let then women, if they will give medicine, give homeopathic medicine. It won’t do any harm.”

Florence Nightingale was a friend of James Clark, John Forbes, James Vaughan Hughes,

Florence Nightingale was the niece of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (a lover of John Chapman, an orthodox doctor who converted to homeopathy, and proprietor of the _Westminster Review_).

From 1854 to 1856, she headed up nursing in the military hospitals. One of the things that Nightingale focused on was improving sanitation within the hospitals:

Nightingale continued believing the death rates were due to poor nutrition and supplies and overworking of the soldiers. It was not until after she returned to Britain and began collecting evidence before the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army, that she came to believe that most of the soldiers at the hospital were killed by poor living conditions. This experience would influence her later career, when she advocated sanitary living conditions as of great importance. Consequently, she reduced deaths in the Army during peacetime and turned attention to the sanitary design of hospitals.

Nightingale was impressed by the Islamic attitudes to caring for the sick with clean air, music, calm environments and kindness:

she would write of spas in Turkey detailing the health conditions, physical descriptions, dietary information, and other vitally important details of patients whom she directed there.

Nightingale was committed to holistic and natural healing:

Nightingale espoused a very holistic orientation in nursing. It was her belief that nursing should put the patient in the best possible condition for nature to restore or preserve health, to prevent or cure disease or injury. In other words, nurses should create environments in which healing can happen.

The revolution in nursing, moral disclipline and medical cleanliness swept Europe, and water cures and homeopathy were very popular, a reaction against the orthodox treatments and practices on offer at the time.

Nightingale was a correspondent and admirer of homeopathic supporter John Forbes: and they exchanged copies of each other’s books with expressions of mutual respect and admiration.

While better known for her contributions in the medical and mathematical fields, Nightingale is also an important link in the study of English feminism. During 1850 and 1852, she was struggling with her self-definition and the expectations of an upper-class marriage from her family.

As she sorted out her thoughts, she wrote Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truth. The three-volume book has never been printed in its entirety, but a section, called Cassandra, was published by Ray Strachey in 1928. Strachey included it in The Cause, a history of the women’s movement. Apparently, the writing served the original purpose of sorting out thoughts…

Cassandra protests the over-feminization of women into near helplessness, such as Nightingale saw in her mother and older sister’s lethargic lifestyle, despite their education. She rejected their life of thoughtless comfort for the world of social service. The work also reflects her fear of her ideas being ineffective, as were Cassandra’s. Cassandra is a virgin-priestess of Apollo who receives a divinely-inspired prophecy, but her prophetic warnings go unheeded. Elaine Showalter called Nightingale’s writing “a major text of English feminism, a link between Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf.”

Of interest:

Geoffrey Nightingale was a member of the Management Committee of the British Homeopathic Association in 1847,

Alfred George Wilkinson 1835 - 1923, MRCS (England 1857), LSA 1866 was a homeopath who lived at 28 Newland, Northampton, in 1908. He went to the Crimea when he was a student and worked alongside Florence Nightingale, and he assisted in attending the wounded after the Charge of the Light Brigade. He setled in Northampton in 1870 and worked until a few days before his death.


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