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“What should we call her?” asked Mr. Nightingale as he
held his newborn daughter. “What should we call our little
girl born in Florence, Italy?”
“That’s it!” said her mother. “Let’s call her Florence! When
we’re home in England we’ll always remember where we
were on this special day.”
When Florence turned one, the family moved home to
Embly Park in England. Florence had a good childhood.
She never went hungry, and her parents gave her a good
By age 16, Florence felt called to become a nurse. She went
with her mother to visit the poor, and she soon began
taking food and supplies to the needy all by herself. She
spent time tending the sick in her neighborhood, and this
made her want to become a nurse even more. However,
her family wasn’t convinced.
“Florence, I’m glad you want to help others,” said her
father, “but being a nurse is a dirty, smelly, dangerous job.
Someone else can take care of the sick. I’ll help you find
something more noble to do with your time.”
“What could be more noble than to help the helpless?!”
asked Florence. “I know it is difficult, but please let me try.”
Florence continued serving her neighbors and teaching
herself about medicine. When she turned 30 years old, her
parents finally let her go to Germany for four months of
nursing school, and later she became the superintendent
of a women’s hospital in London.
In 1854, Great Britain joined several other countries to fight
against Russia in the Crimean War. When British soldiers
were wounded in battle, they went to a military hospital
with terrible living conditions. The Scutari Hospital was an
old building with poor air ventilation, leaky sewers, and
few supplies. Soldiers in the hospital were ten times more
likely to die of disease and infection than to die of their
battle wounds.
When Florence heard what was happening at Scutari
Hospital, she joined a group of 38 female nurses who
went to help the sick and hurting soldiers. When they
arrived, Florence and her team reorganized the supplies,
thoroughly cleaned the rooms and equipment, and greatly
improved patient care. Once the hospital ventilation and
sewer systems were fixed, the death and infection rate
went down.
Florence stayed at Scutari Hospital for three years, taking
care of the sick and helping where she could. She became
known as the “Lady with the Lamp” because she would
make rounds at night to check on the soldiers. The poet
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow even wrote about Florence
in a poem:
Lo! in that hour of misery,
A lady with a lamp I see,
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
When she returned home to
England, Florence started the
Nightingale Training School for
Nurses so she could prepare
others to care for the sick.
Graduates from her school
were wanted in hospitals as far
away as the United States. With
a heart of compassion, Florence
Nightingale inspired thousands
to look out for others and offer
help in times of need.
Florence Nightingale