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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2005, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
In pictures: Nursing heroine celebrated

Punch magazine cartoon of Mary Seacole in the Crimea, 1857

An exhibition at the Florence Nightingale museum in London is marking the bicentenary of the birth of Mary Seacole. The nurse, of Jamaican and Scottish parentage, became famous in Victorian times for helping British troops in the Crimean War.

Depiction of Mary Seacole in the 'British Hotel' she set up in the Crimea, copyright: Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Despite extensive nursing experience Mary Seacole's offer to help was rejected by the British government so she made her own way to the war zone. In 1856 her efforts on behalf of the troops were rewarded with the Crimea medal presented by Queen Victoria.

Cover of original edition of Mary Seacole's autobiography, copyright Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Mary Seacole returned penniless to England after the war. A benefit concert organised by high-ranking British Army officials and her best-selling autobiography helped rescue her from bankruptcy.

Caroline Roberts and display of herbs of the kind used by Mary Seacole

Museum curator Caroline Roberts says research for the exhibition uncovered the extent of Mary Seacole's skills as a 'herbalist'. She used natural ingredients to treat diseases such as dysentery and cholera.

Mary Seacole drawing by pupil at Walnut Tree Walk School, Lambeth, London.

The exhibition, one of a series of events in 2005 to commemorate Mary Seacole, also aims to educate local school children about her work.

Unknown Commonwealth nurse, copyright Harry Jacobs

The exhibition organisers also want to track down unknown Commonwealth nurses who came to the UK to work in the NHS during the 1960s and 70s.

Mary Seacole's grave, St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London.  Copyright: Amanda German

Unlike her contemporary, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole was largely forgotten after her death. She was 're-discovered' in the 1980s and in 2004 she was named 'Greatest Black Briton' in a poll.


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