- Florence Nightingale on Public Health Care. Volume 6 of Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, and: Florence Nightingale's European Travels. Volume 7 of Collected Works of Florence Nightingale
In these latest offerings of the ambitious Collected Works of Florence Nightingale project, series editor Lynn McDonald demonstrates why one of the best-known women of the Victorian Era continues to fascinate, one hundred and fifty years after her initial rise to fame. Until now, the most widely available literature has been written about rather than by Florence Nightingale. Delivering on the promise of convenient access to all the available surviving writing of Florence Nightingale, McDonald offers readers a meticulously transcribed, categorized, and indexed record of Nightingale's major published books, articles, and pamphlets, as well as heretofore unpublished correspondence and notes. In Florence Nightingale on Public Health Care and Florence Nightingale's European Travels, Nightingale emerges as a brilliant and politically astute woman who, from her youth, was driven by intellectual mischief, unquenchable curiosity, stubborn resistance to the status quo, and an unrelenting desire to improve the living conditions of the sick poor.
Geared towards scholars, both Public Health Care and European Travels can best be thought of as conveniently organized primary data-sets. Lynn McDonald's extensive yet unobtrusive editorial analyses and comments are invaluable, and serve to contextualize and anchor the disparate documents that follow. Public Health Care includes a range of documents (loosely) associated with the development of a public health care system in England, such as Nightingale's Notes on Nursing for the Labouring Classes, documents related to the reform of workhouse infirmaries, public health issues, rural health, and Nightingale's 'caseload.' McDonald's decision to include care of the sick in a book on 'public health' (generally understood today as illness prevention and health promotion) may be explained by Nightingale's belief that health and illness care, particularly of the sick poor, [End Page 304] should be the responsibility of the state - that is, a 'public' responsibility. Readers with the fortitude to forge through Nightingale's occasionally tedious and repetitive writing will be rewarded with a sense of being privy to Nightingale's dreams, both frustrated and realized. For example, a thirty-three-page section on 'Colonial Sanitary Statistics and Aboriginal Depopulation' provides an unanticipated glimpse into the conditions of Native residential schools in Canada and elsewhere in 1863, since Nightingale was concerned about the steep morbidity and mortality rate of newly colonized Aboriginal populations. A lack of adequate statistics caused Nightingale to move on to other matters.
If Public Health traces Nightingale's post-Crimea public service (1860-1901), European Travels traces her formative years as revealed through various trips abroad (1837-53). Interestingly, the trips correspond with significant milestones in Nightingale's professional development. That is, Nightingale's 'call to service' occurred a few months before her first European trip in 1837, and her first nursing appointment came after her last European trip, to Paris in 1853. More than a travelogue, European Travels reveals how Nightingale's intellectual, political, aesthetic, and spiritual appetites stimulated opportunities for self-education during a time when her family stood in opposition to her increasing desire to be trained as a nurse. For example, visits to various Catholic cathedrals evoked meticulous descriptions of artwork and religious services, comparisons of Catholicism and Protestantism, comments on local politics, and reflections on her own unrequited desire to fulfil God's intentions for her. Of particular interest is material from Nightingale's 1850 visit to the Deaconess Institution at Kaiserswerth, Germany, including journal entries, letters, and Nightingale's first publication, a substantial pamphlet meant to introduce Kai-serswerth to English Christians. The Kaiserswerth documents chronicle Nightingale's earliest opportunity to study nursing and are essential to a full understanding of Florence Nightingale.
Public Health Care and European Travels are invaluable reference texts for scholars interested in Nightingale and her contemporaries, the...