Last Friday, August 13, was the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s death. I first studied Ms. Nightingale in a nursing history course the summer of 1960. In the 1959 Trends in Nursing History textbook that still sits on my bookshelves, I’ve underlined the passage saying she was born in Florence, Italy, “on May 12, 1820, in the beautiful cultural and intellectual center from which she received her name.”
When I taught about “The Lady of the Lamp” years later, the students always had a bit of fun with this information, giggling aloud what their names would be if they’d been named after their birthplace. My name would have been “Oskaloosa.” I know I prefer “Lois.” Nightingale was nicknamed “The Lady of the Lamp” because of her carrying a lamp along hospital corridors during night duty. Imagine the comforting presence of seeing the light of her lamp swinging down the hall.
When I was capped in diploma school on June 27, 1960, we carried a symbolic lamp. I still have the box, and the copper-looking lamp also sits on my bookshelves. And Ive quoted Nightingale in the beginning of Caring Lessons. She is known to have heard a distinct call from God to leave her comfortable Victorian life for something that she later knew was to become a nurse.
So I was moved last week when my friend Marianna sent me a fitting commemorative article by Suzanne Gordon and Siobhan Nelson on the anniversary of Nightingale’s death from the News&Observer. Click, read, and muse over how her work influences us yet today.