Name: Mary Seacole (nee Grant)
Born: 23 November 1805
Passed: 14 May 1881
Place of birth: Jamaica
Residencies: Jamaica, UK, Cuba, Haiti, Bahamas, Panama
Known for: Nursing the needy during outbreaks of diseases and injured soldiers
Mary Jane Grant, known to us as Mary Seacole was Jamaican. Her maiden name was Mary Jane Grant.
Mary’s mother was Black, and her father James Grant was Scottish. He was a soldier, Mary’s mother ran a lodging house, called Blundell Hall. Mary had 2 other siblings.
Nursing, it seems was Mary’s vocation, and this, it is reported, started at the early age of 12. In her autobiography, Mary wrote “It was very natural that I should inherit her tastes; and so, I had from early youth a yearning for medical knowledge and practice which never
deserted me…. And I was very young when I began to make use of the little knowledge, I had acquired from watching my mother, upon great sufferer – my doll… and whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll soon contracted it.”
Mary went to London in 1825, and was there for 2 years. She also traveled to other countries like Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas during the year of 1825.
In 1836 Mary married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole. Sadly Edwin had poor health and died in 1844. It was a grim time for Mary as her mother died soon after. Mary was invited by the medical authorities to supervise nursing services at Upton Park in Kingston, the British Army’s headquarters.
Mary’s nursing skills took her to Panama in the year of 1851 where she nursed people who were affected by cholera disease.
Mary attended to soldiers who fought in the Crimea War, which lasted for 3 years. She funded her own trip to Crimea because she was refused government assistance. Mary went to the battlefields to attend to the soldiers’ injuries. Like her mother before her Mary established lodgings for the recovering soldiers used as a place for them to recuperate.
After the Crimea War Mary returned to Britain. It is said that soldiers wrote to newspapers giving recognition for the work she had done for the war effort.
Mary was held in such high esteem by soldiers, generals and other dignities who went as far as holding a fund-raising gala for Mary in July 1857, to prevent her from becoming destitute.
The fact is Mary had very little money when she returned from the Crimea War. Mary wrote an autobiography ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands’.
Mary died in London in 1881. But her legacy still lives on.