Florence Nightingale : The Woman and Her Legend, Paperback

Florence Nightingale : The Woman and Her Legend Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Winner of the Elizabeth Longford prize for Historical Biography Mark Bostridge's Florence Nightingale is a masterful and effortlessly enjoyable biography of one of Britain's most iconic heroines. Whether honoured and admired or criticized and ridiculed, Florence Nightingale has invariably been misrepresented and misunderstood.

As the Lady with the Lamp, ministering to the wounded and dying of the Crimean War, she offers an enduring image of sentimental appeal and one that is permanently lodged in our national consciousness.

But the awesome scale of her achievements over the course of her 90 years is infinitely more troubling - and inspiring - than this mythical simplification. From her tireless campaigning and staggering intellectual abilities to her tortured relationship with her sister and her distressing medical condition, this vivid and immensely readable biography draws on a wealth of unpublished material and previously unseen family papers, disentangling the myth from the reality and reinvigorating with new life one of the most iconic figures in modern British history.




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This biography of Nightingale focuses on the health care reform work that occupied the last 50 years of her long life. Administrative reform isn't the most romantic subject, but the case is easily made that Nightingale saved many more lives through her tireless promotion of the proper nursing education, of rational hospital design, and most of all of the importance of hygiene (and preventative medicine in general) than she did in the nursing work she performed during the Crimean war which was to bring her so much fame. This warts-and-all portrayal show her to be a far more fascinating figure than the saintly caregiver fetishised by 19th century sentimentalists—fiercely intelligent; a tireless lobbyist; a pragmatist and empiricist when it came to nursing education and hospital design, with little time for theory; an enthusiastic promoter of social statistics and data visualisation—all of these sides to Nightingale would seem to me to be more attractive to modern readers than to her 19th century contemporaries whose concept of the feminine ideal was that of a wife and mother.

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