health heroine: mary seacole (1805-1881)

in celebration of turning in the final application in a series i’m working on in the direction of becoming a more formally credentialed health practitioner, i decided to look up some inspirational figures in health history as well as contemporaries. the first fascinating healer i came across is mary seacole, a nurse of jamaican origin with amazing travel, healing and life experiences including the successful treatment of diseases like cholera and yellow fever with the integration of natural and holistic remedies.

with a background in tropical illnesses and a legacy of herbal medicinal knowledge inherited from her mother, also a healer, mary seacole, a nurse by profession brought her health practice to others in kingston, her hometown, still a british colony at the time. her health expertise and free spirit practice carried her to work with soldiers and civilians in panama (then unified with colombia under the name new granada), the UK and most famously as a nurse to the wounded in the crimean war. as a woman of color (of mixed african-scottish ancestry), she encountered discrimination throughout her life including slandering attempts from acclaimed british nurse florence nightingale. although she suffered financial loss towards the end of her life, she is the recipient of numerous awards and has increased in popularity in recent years. her life is captured in her autobiography wonderful adventures of mrs. seacole in many lands, one of the earliest ever written by a woman of color.

interesting mary seacole quotes

i must say that i don’t appreciate your friend’s kind wishes with respect to my complexion. if it had been as dark as a nigger’s, i should have been just as happy and useful, and as much respected by those whose respect i value: and as to his offer of bleaching me, i should, even if it were practicable, decline it without any thanks.”

i have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related to those poor mortals you once held enslaved, and whose bodies america still owns. having this bond, and knowing what slavery is, having seen with my eyes and heard with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors, is it surprising that i should be somewhat impatient of the airs of superiority which many americans have endeavoured to assume over me.

….and the grateful words and smile which rewarded me for binding up a wound or giving a cooling drink was a pleasure worth risking life for at any time.

[references:,,; photo is the only known existing one of ms.]


~ by cyrah on December 27, 2011.

2 Responses to “health heroine: mary seacole (1805-1881)”

  1. great post!! inspiring for sure!!

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