The Defiance of Florence Nightingale

by Joshua Hammer/Photographs by Tina Hiller/Smithsonian Magazine March 2020

She’s the “avenging angel,” the “ministering angel,” the “lady with the lamp”—the brave woman whose name would become synonymous with selflessness and compassion.

Yet as Britain prepares to celebrate Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday on May 12—with a wreath-laying at Waterloo Place, a special version of the annual Procession of the Lamp at Westminster Abbey, a two-day conference on nursing and global health sponsored by the Florence Nightingale Foundation, and tours of her summer home in Derbyshire—scholars are debating her reputation and accomplishments.

Detractors recently have chipped away at Nightingale’s role as a caregiver, pointing out that she served as a nurse for only three years. Meanwhile, perhaps surprisingly, some British nurses themselves have suggested they are tired of working in her shadow.

But researchers are calling attention to her pioneering work as a statistician and as an early advocate for the modern idea that health care is a human right. Mark Bostridge, the author of the biography Florence Nightingale, attributes much of the controversy to Nightingale’s defiance of Victorian conventions. “

We are very uncomfortable still with an intellectually powerful woman whose primary aim has nothing to do with men or family,” Bostridge told me. “I think misogyny…


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  1. Health care is good, but to call it a “human right” sounds like yet another marxist foray into public life, with a full virtue signalling roadshow. The point is this, that people who do not pay for it are always ready to call expensive things a “human right”. The question must be asked – who pays for it? Because health care is never free, someone will always have to pay for it. And please don’t say the government, because the government don’t have any money. All the money they have comes from the taxes. So if they have to pay, it is actually you who pays. And paying through government is virtually always expensive and inefficient.
    So no, health care is not a “human right”, unless the payment plan is revealed at the same time.

    • One way or another, “We The People” pay for it. Plain and Simple!

      The question is do we want a healthy society who has access or should the poorest of society be priced out and left to die in the streets?

      It’s a moral question. I think Ms. Nightingale gave you her answer. Now, it’s up to you to give yours.

    • Moral question? Sure. Only remember that leaving the answering of such question to the government made up of psychopaths is not a moral thing to do.
      It has to start by lowering taxes (including hidden ones) by a minimum of 50%, which will leave people with enough for health care. There will be fewer who can’t afford it and with the rest having more they will find it easier to help the fellow man, and that is a moral act, and a moral answer.
      In short, taxes are the original sin = theft by the state.

  2. …and i believe this claim for a healthy body for all of us carries all due claims, for who knows where the seeds of disease, for which even rich people suffer from, were first sown, from the luxury of an ancestor perhaps, yet often, I suspect, from his poverty….William Morris

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