Nightingale, Mother Seacole, and the Reform of Medicine

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Highlighting the Facts behind Historical Romance with Stephanie Patterson and A Terrible Beauty

Much of my information regarding the Crimean War came from the personal accounts of Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale and Fanny Duberly, as well as dozens of historical articles and texts. Florence Nightingale met with a great deal of resistance in attempting to take nurses to the Crimea and not all of it from the War Office. It was only after William Howard Russell’s harrowing accounts of the battles and the hospital conditions appeared in print that the public’s outrage forced the British government to request Miss Nightingale take a contingent of nurses to Scutari. That was merely the beginning of her fight.

The nursing contingent arrived at Barrack Hospital on November 4, 1854. The conditions were appalling – men lying on filthy piles of straw begging for help, rats gnawing on both the living and the dead. The accounts were disturbing to read and must have been appalling to witness. On top of the horrors of the wards, Miss Nightingale discovered 150 English women – the wives of soldiers abandoned per military order and told to return to England as best they could. After months in these conditions they were little more than living skeletons ravaged by disease and vermin.

I learned of Mary Seacole during my research and soon became captivated by this flamboyant, gregarious woman, quick of mind and generous of heart who had a solid reputation as a second-generation herbal healer in Jamaica, and who gained notoriety for her work during outbreaks of cholera. Mrs. Seacole, or Mother Seacole, as she was known, was lauded for her work during the Panamanian cholera outbreak of 1850 and is without a doubt one of the period’s more colorful figures. I am one of Mary’s biggest fans and couldn’t resist giving Belle the opportunity to work with her.

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Nightingale in the wards

In the story, both Belle and Michael hope to see an act passed by Parliament to standardize the qualifications for competent medical practitioners. The Medical Act of 1858 created a “Registry of General Medical Council.” Its initial form passed during what came to be known as ‘The Summer of the Big Stench.’ The weather was unseasonably hot that year and Parliament remained in session due to haggling over several bills. The Thames reeked in the humid summer air and many of the nobles who were unable to leave the city for their country estates received a firsthand look at what London’s poor dealt with every year. Sheets soaked in bleach were hung up in front of windows and doors in an effort to keep out contagions and smell. It would take several more years and many new medical discoveries before the reforms sought in 1858 were completed. It is interesting to note that Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman physician to have her name entered on the Medical Register in 1859.

I hope you enjoy reading A Terrible Beauty, and it inspires you to learn more about the events, places and people who lived during the controversial and fascinating Crimean War.

About the Book

Nurse, Annabelle Winslow, returns to London from the Crimean War to face the misdeeds of her past. Five years ago, she ruled the ballrooms of fashionable society as Lady Arabella Winslow, The Incomparable Araby, a singular beauty who rent hearts and hopes at will. Facing her past means facing the man who betrayed her – the man she loved who in exchange for her heart, ruthlessly stripped away her pride and her dignity for the sake of revenge.

Michael Lassiter is handsome, wealthy, powerful and a natural rogue. Still, Araby captivates him like no other woman until her thoughtless words devastate his younger brother and destroy his future. In his anger, Michael sets in motion a chain of events that will alter all of their lives and five years later force him into a confrontation with a young woman who continues to haunt him, who he has never been able to forget, nor forgive.

About the Author

Stephanie Patterson began her writing career at age three by designing her own symbol alphabet to represent words and emotions. Writing has always been her first love, which prompted her to begin her first novel, a civil war epic at the age of eight. Her debut romance, “Playing for Keeps,” was published under the pen name, Stephanie Salinas. “The Woman in Question,” a contemporary romantic thriller published under her own name, followed a couple of years later.

Patterson’s series, “Season of the Furies,” a Victorian romance trilogy about three, beautiful debutants who must atone for a despicable act, is now complete. 2020 saw the publication of the first book in her new series, “Tales from the Arcadian,” which follows the performers of a London music hall in 1862. Book one, “Bobby Dazzler,” is currently available in both e-book and print editions.

Patterson is a resident of northern Oregon and comes from a criminal defense background where she worked on all types of cases from petty theft to capital murder and murder for hire in both the state and federal criminal systems. When not writing, she practices and teaches the ancient divination art of cartomancy – a fancy way of saying tarot reading, as well as works on her community’s month-long Halloween festival, ‘Spirit of Halloweentown.’™  



FaceBook Page: Stephanie Patterson Writes Books

3 thoughts on “Nightingale, Mother Seacole, and the Reform of Medicine

  1. Hi Sarah. I agree. Her story is fascinating and I highly recommend her book, “Mrs. Secole’s Adventures in Many Lands.” My favorite Mary story takes place at the Port of Balaclava. Admiral Boxer refused to allow private ships to tie up at the dock and unload their ship (no exceptions) because of the need to load the evacuation ships carrying the wounded to Scutari and the other hospital across the Black Sea. Mary obtained an appointment with him – a small miracle. He walked in bruskly and was pretty dismissive until she said what a pleasure it was to meet him and that she’d known his son in Jamaica. Boxer stopped and told her she had half an hour to unload her supplies. Like Florence, she never heard the word, no.

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