Florence Nightingale is famous for her work in the military hospitals of the Crimea. She established nursing as a respectable profession for women. When she was 24, she procured government reports on national health conditions from a friend in Parliament, Sidney Herbert, which she fastidiously studied in the predawn hours. She indexed and tabulated facts and figures and soon became a self-taught expert on hospitals and sanitation. In 1851, she studied nursing for three months. Two years later, she was appointed superintendent of the Institution for the care of Sick Gentlewomen in London. Her administrations were very successful and so were the changes made to the Institution.
During the Crimean war, Florence was asked to go to Turkey to manage the nursing of British soldiers. She found the hospital conditions to in a very poor state. Many of the patients were unclean and were sleeping in dirty, overcrowded rooms with no warmth or proper food. Because of these things, diseases spread quickly. As a result the death rate in the hospital was very high. Florence and her nurses helped to change these conditions. They set up a clean kitchen feeding the patients with their own supplies and asked for help from the wives of the wounded. They then could properly care for the patients and the death rate decreased.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was a pioneering physician and political campaigner, the first Englishwoman to qualify as a doctor. Elizabeth as a nursing student at Middlesex Hospital and attended classes intended for male doctors, but was barred after complaints from other students. As the Society of Apothecaries did not specifically forbid women from taking their examinations, in 1865 she passed their exams and gained a certificate which enabled her to become a doctor.
The society then changed its rules to prevent other women entering the profession this way. In 1866 she established a dispensary for women in London and in 1870 was made a visiting physician to the East London Hospital. She was still determined to get her medical degree, so she taught herself French and went to the University of Paris, where she got her degree. The British Medical Register refused to recognise her qualification. Anderson’s determination paved the way for other women, and in 1876 an act was passed permitting women to enter the medical professions. In 1883, Anderson was appointed dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, which she had helped to found in 1874, and oversaw its expansion. In 1908, she became the mayor of the town, the first female mayor in England.
“Compare the impact for women in medicine of the careers of Nightingale and Garrett Anderson” Florence Nightingale wanted to become a nurse at a time when nursing was held in very low esteem in the UK, and was only considered suitable for lower class women or men. Influenced by visits to the Lutheran hospital at Kaiserwerth, Germany, she used her £500 allowance from her father to run an Institution for Sick Gentlewomen in London, gaining her first experience of committees and administration.
In 1854 the Crimean war was in progress, and after reading an account of the conditions at Scutari she volunteered to go there; her friend, Sidney Herbert, invited her to lead a party of nurses. Accompanied by 38 nurses, she attacked the filthy conditions and established medical organization in the British Army. As Superintendent of the female nursing establishment in the war zone, within a few months she had reduced the death rate from 42 percent to 2.2. percent. She dealt with supplies and the welfare of the men.
The ‘Lady with the Lamp’ returned to England in 1856 as a popular heroine. She used the principles of hygiene she had practised in public health work. She was adviser to the first district nurse service, established in Liverpool, and organized the appointment of women health commissioners. Her analyses of medical statistics were innovatory. £44,000, which she used to endow the Nightingale School of Nursing at St Thomas’s Hospital. She appointed Mrs Wardoper as matron, and under their strict guidance ‘character’, technical ability and professionalism combined with ward hygiene established standards in nursing which in gratitude to Florence Nightingale for her achievements in the Crimea, the British public raised it from its former menial status. Notes on Nursing incorporate many of the principles. Her missionary purpose in nursing enabled her to bring her methods into use in many hospitals, workhouse infirmaries, and district nursing areas in the UK and Europe. Her influence spread to America, women’s enthusiasm for going to nurse in the Civil War was referred to as ‘Nightingale mania’.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first English woman to become a doctor of medicine. She studied at the London Hospital and at St Andrew’s, where she had to dissect cadavers in her own bedroom when denied access to the dissecting rooms. She passed the apothecaries examination so that she could be listed on the medical register as LSA.
In 1866 she opened St Mary’s Dispensary for Women, which later became the New Hospital for Women and children, and after her death was named the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. While actively supporting the admission of women to the University of Edinburgh, in 1870 she achieved full professional respectability for herself in the form of an MD from the University of Paris.
Elizabeth became a lecturer, and then Dean and President, at the London School of Medicine for Women. She had intended becoming a great physician to help women, and was also a pioneer in opening the medical profession to women. She was the first and only member of the British Medical Association from 1873 to 1892.