Florence Nightingale letter on display after spending 140 years in scrapbook

The handwritten note by the nursing pioneer is being put on show by the University of Chichester.

Ben Mitchell
Wednesday 11 May 2022 10:59
The original letter by Florence Nightingale was unearthed in the archives at the University of Chichester (Andrew Matthews/PA)
The original letter by Florence Nightingale was unearthed in the archives at the University of Chichester (Andrew Matthews/PA)

An original letter by Florence Nightingale in which she writes of her poor health following her return from the Crimean War has gone on display for the first time.

The handwritten note by the nursing pioneer from 1872 is being put on show by the University of Chichester to mark International Nursing Day on Thursday May 12.

In the letter, which was found in near-pristine condition in the university’s archives, the 62-year-old gives her support to a campaign led by the Suffragettes and activist Louisa Hubbard to create a female teacher-training college on the south coast – now the University of Chichester.

Dr Nita Muir, head of the university’s new School of Nursing and Allied Health which will display the note, said: “The letter epitomises all that Nightingale stood for – boundless compassion for the right causes and championing social reform.

The letter by Florence Nightingale (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“It is a remarkable find and is completely unspoiled, despite spending the last 140 years in an old scrapbook which belonged to the famed women’s rights campaigner Louisa Hubbard.”

The University of Chichester first opened to students in 1840, named Bishop Otter college after its founder.

It subsequently changed to training women in 1873 after the success of the campaign by Ms Hubbard and the Suffragettes.

The West Sussex institution still retains some purple colour in its academic dress code to reference the movement.

A view of the signature of Florence Nightingale (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Ms Nightingale wrote in the letter to Ms Hubbard: “In the crush and drive of ever increasing and pressing business and of ever increasing illness (I am entirely a prisoner to my room) – will you excuse a too thoro reply to your questions?

“To supply some of our School mistresses from among poor gentlewomen with the view of carrying arising rustic young girls and town and village children better family habits by way of example in one of the most useful plans I know – and will be of inconceivable advantage, if sensibly carried out, not only to the Schools but to the gentlewomen – I hope, trust and believe that it will succeed.

“I wish you God speed with all my heart and soul – and pray believe me, Madam, (Tho’ in great press of business and illness), ever your faithful servant, Florence Nightingale.”

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