Mary Seacole (1805-1881) (1/8)

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Mary Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse who defied the prejudices and injustices of her era in order to bring succour and aid to a great many wounded military personnel during the Crimean War. An intrepid traveller and a compassionate humanitarian, Mary made a staggeringly long 4000 mile journey to the eastern front, where she established a relief home for wounded soldiers known as the British Hotel. Initially, Mary tried to join through the British army. Despite her skill however, she was refused, a decision that she attributed to racial prejudice. Remarkably, this did nothing to dull her willpower borne out of a sheer desire to help others, and together with Thomas Day, a relative of her husband, they secured finances for the trip. 

Tragically, she returned to Britain after the war with very little money – but the soldiers whose lives she had saved would not let her efforts be forgotten. After being declared bankrupt on November 1856, her financial situation was highlighted by British newspapers sympathetic to her plight, and a donation fund was set up. Just a couple of months later, she was declared free from bankruptcy. 

In her later years, she published an autobiography – the first autobiography authored by a black woman in Britain – chronicling her many adventures across the world, titled ‘Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands’. Highly recommended!

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