Mary Seacole: Meet the woman honoured by Google Doodle who was voted the greatest ever black Briton

Who is Mary Seacole?

Harry Cockburn
Friday 14 October 2016 14:16
5 things to know about Mary Seacole

A Google Doodle is celebrating the life of Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole.

Ms Seacole, who was born in 1805 and died in 1881, assisted the British army during the Crimean War, setting up a hotel for sick and wounded soldiers behind enemy lines.

In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton of all time.

During the conflict in Crimea, hundreds of soldiers died after contracting diseases including cholera, and the government approached Florence Nightingale to form a unit of nurses to support the diseased and injured.

Ms Seacole was refused as a volunteer nurse, and travelled to the Crimea at her own expense.

Once there she set up her hotel near Balaclava, initially building it from driftwood and scrap metal. In her memoirs she described it as a place to provide “a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers’.

Eventually, the hotel was able to provide comfortable accommodation and became a celebrated destination that was also used for theatrical performances and horse-racing events in between the battles.

According to her autobiography, she said she saw “much” of Ms Nightingale, with whom she became friendly.

After her death, Ms Seacole faded from public consciousness, but renewed interest in her life and role in 19th Century British society has seen her celebrated as an icon who fought ingrained racial prejudice.

A memorial statue was erected in her honour at St Thomas’s Hospital this year. It is thought to be the UK’s first statue built in the UK in recognition of a black woman.

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