Mary Seacole Nursing

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole

"Mary Seacole is a role model for every ethnic group, motivating people to carry on, despite the obstacles they have to summount"


Mary Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805, her father was a Scottish soldier, and her mother was a free black woman. Due to her racial mixture, she was not used as a slave, but also not completely free from the prejudice against blacks (Seaton, 2002).

Her mother was a herbalist, a form of doctor in Jamaica, who ran a boarding house, for injured British soldiers. Mary began to help her mother to take care of the patients at the age of twelve, where she gained the experience of watching military doctors, and how they cared for their patients (Ellis, 2009). It was from her mother that she learned the art of patient care, while she also helped out in providing care at the local British army hospital (Ellis, 2009). This enhanced her skills and helped her in becoming a profound nurse.

In 1836, she married her husband Edwin Horatio Seacole, but he became very sick and died shortly after their marriage. After becoming a widow, Mary opened her own boarding house to care for patients, and quickly became a well-known nurse (Seaton, 2002). Mary Seacole has become a prominent nurse throughout the world from her strong stand points on providing care and the ability to overcome challenges presented to her.

Working as a Nurse

In 1850, cholera infected many people in Jamaica, killing about 31,000 (Seaton, 2002). During this time of need, Mary began to work with other doctors, and gained knowledge about the disease which led her to discover a medicine that could help increase patients likelihood of survival.

The following year, Mary Seacole opened another boarding house in Panama when visiting her brother. Soon after her arrival, cholera broke out, and there was no doctor to care for the sick patients. In the beginning residents did not accept Mary’s care, because she was a black woman (Seaton, 2002). Eventually they saw she was their only option and allowed her help. Mary worked throughout the pandemic, saving many lives. She treated many sick patients, where she provided free care for the poor (Ellis, 2009). Mary continued onto Cuba, to help the patients sick with Cholera, then headed back to Jamaica in 1853 to help those who had fallen ill to yellow fever. She helped out by organzing nursing at the Kingston hospital, in order to provide sufficient care to the citizens who had fallen ill (Ellis, 2009).

When the Crimean warbegan, Mary Seacole knew that her knowledge would be useful, and decided to travel to London in 1854. She was determined to offer her services to the British army to continue saving many lives. She was unfortunately turned town by various war offices, as well as Florence Nightingales organization because of the colour of her skin. She did not give up on her effort to help in the Crimean war and went there on her own to help with the wounded and sick soldiers (Seaton, 2002). Seacole would sometimes get the courage to venture out onto the battlefield in order to help the wounded soldiers in need. Mary Seacole became well known across the Crimea and England due to her heroic actions (Seaton, 2002).

She opened a store and a boarding house a year later, which she called The British Hotel. Inside was a kitchen, where hot meals were provided and also two wooden sleeping huts for comfort (Ellis, 2009). She personally provided direct medical assistance for those in need. Seacole worked diligently throughout the day at her boarding house, and then volunteered with Nightingale during the evenings. Mary Seacole was eager to provide care for the British army by helping the casualties and assisting at the army hospital (Ellis, 2009). She soon became known as 'Mother Seacole' to the army troops (Ellis, 2009). She acquired the position of working on the battlefield to care for patients, where she became well known and greatly appreciated. Through her hard work and dedication to the sick, she received many awards, and medals following the war.

Following her help throughout the war, she returned to England, where she faced both health and financial difficulties (Ellis, 2009). When Seacole was 53, her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, was printed and became a popular read before fading into the background (Seaton, 2002). In the 1970's, Seacole was taken out of the background and seen as a symbol for all black nurses, women's rights and civil rights groups.

Afterlife and Effects on Nursing

She later returned to Jamaica, but soon after came back to her house in Paddington, London. Mary lived a full life, where she died in 1881 at her home in Paddington (Ellis, 2009). Mary Seacole is now known as a prominent figure in the world of nursing. She inspires others by her compassion and her strength in overcoming personal challenges. There is now an annual event to mark the death of Seacole and to celebrate her accomplishments (Pearce, 2004). Prior to her death, she won an award named the ‘100 Great Black Britons’ award (Pearce, 2004). Now an award is presented yearly to a nurse who possesses qualities similar to those of Mary Seacole (Wallis, 2009). This is a prestigious award that shows the deserving nurse as caring and an awareness of other people’s personal dignity. Mary Seacole showed her courage and compassion for others as she fought through the struggles of discrimination to help those around her who were in need of health care assistance.

A stir for Seacole Was a poem written by the British Weekly about Mary Seacole.


Ellis, H. (2009). Mary Seacole: Self taught nurse and heroine of the Crimean war. The Journal of Perioperative Care, 19(9). pp 306-306. Retrieved from:
Pearce, L. (2004). A Tribute to Visionary. The Nursing Standard, 19(4). pp 16-18. Retrieved from:

Seaton, Helen. (2002). Another Florence Nightingale? The Rediscovery of Mary Seacole. Retrieved from

Wallis, L. (2009). Introducing the three best. The Nursing Standard, 23(34). pp 62-64. Retrieved from: