Florence Nightingale’s inspiring life as the founder of modern nursing was one long sacrifice (1820-1910)

Florence Nightingale’s inspiring life

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


Possibly the most famous nurse ever, Florence Nightingale made a profound impact on American society. Her revolutionary ideas about healthcare, sanitation and patient care transformed the medical profession and continues to influence healthcare practices today.

Nightingale’s tireless advocacy for social and health reforms paved the way for future generations of women to pursue careers in healthcare and public service. Her legacy as the founder of modern nursing and a champion for patient rights has had a profound impact on American culture and society.

Here, discover the incredible impact of Florence Nightingale and be inspired by her enduring legacy of compassion, dedication, and service.

Older Florence Nightingale

On August 13, 1910, Florence Nightingale passed away at the age of 90. Her death was met with widespread mourning, as she had become an icon of compassion and dedication to the care of others.

Born in 1820, Nightingale had begun her nursing career in the 1850s, working in hospitals in London and in the Crimea during the war. It was there that she gained fame for her tireless efforts to improve the conditions of wounded soldiers and reduce the high death rate from disease.

Her work in the Crimea, where she personally tended to the sick and injured, earned her the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp.”

Florence Nightingale - The lady with the lamp

After the war, Nightingale continued to work as a nurse, but also turned her attention to improving the overall quality of healthcare. She advocated for better sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.

News of Nightingale’s death spread quickly and tributes poured in from around the world — including from American sources like the one below, which we’ve reprinted from a regional newspaper in Michigan.

young Florence Nightingale

Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII, wrote that Nightingale’s “noble life and work will be an inspiration to all time,” while the British Medical Journal referred to her as “the most famous and beloved woman in England.”

ALSO SEE: See how vintage drugstores 100 years ago sold lots of things you can’t (legally) buy anymore

One of the most moving tributes came from the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, where a memorial service was held in her honor. The following excerpt from the school’s official statement sums up the feelings of many:

“We mourn the loss of our beloved founder, Florence Nightingale, but we take comfort in knowing that her legacy lives on in the countless lives she touched through her selfless devotion to the care of others. She has left us a shining example of the true meaning of nursing, and we will strive to continue her work in the years to come.”

Florence Nightingale at Scutari 1854

“Angel of the Battlefield” revered by all soldiers

Florence Nightingale’s life was one long sacrifice for the cause of suffering humanity

The first Army nurse

A woman whose name for over half a century has been a household word throughout the civilized world, and who was universally loved and revered as few women have been, was claimed by death when Florence Nightingale passed away in her London home. She had been an invalid for a number of years.

During recent years, owing to her feebleness and advanced age. Miss Nightingale had received but few visitors. On May 12 last, she celebrated her ninetieth birthday, and was the recipient of a congratulatory message from King George.

Young Florence Nightingale

“The Angel of the Crimea,” “The Soldiers’ Friend,” are titles which were conferred upon Florence Nightingale for her memorable service on behalf of the wounded and dying in the Crimean war. The last honor to be conferred upon her by a grateful country was in 1908, when the freedom of the city of London was bestowed upon her.

Before that, in 1907, she received from King Edward the English Order of Merit, the most exclusive distinction within the gift of the British sovereign. She was the only woman who has ever received that honor.

ALSO SEE: Old-fashioned dentistry makes dental care today seem like magic

Florence Nightingale’s beginning

Miss Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, May 12, 1820, and it was in honor of the “city of flowers” that she was named. She was the daughter of a wealthy English landowner and returned with her parents to England when a child. She early displayed an inclination toward philanthropy, and was the first woman to follow a modern army into battle as a nurse.

Although her father was a very wealthy man, she insisted on learning all that there was to be learned about the profession of nursing and became famous as a “probationer” in London hospitals. Later on she went to France and subsequently to Germany.

A few years later, she was in Africa nursing Arabs with such effect, says one of her biographers, “that the Moslems were almost convinced that the woman had a soul.”

When the war of the Crimea broke out, the British army sent to the front to help the French in the struggle with the Russians was not accompanied by the usual corps of women nurses.

Florence Nightingale - Hospital at Scutari

The struggle had been going on only a few months, however, when “Bull Run” Russell began sending to his English newspaper heartrending accounts of the frightful conditions that prevailed in the British hospitals and the horrible state of the wounded men.

Instantly, all England was in an uproar, and for a time the British ministry seemed tottering. Then, almost at the same moment, for their letters crossed each other, Florence Nightingale volunteered to take a corps of nurses to the front, and Herbert Sydney, the secretary of war, suggested to her such a commission.

Florence Nightingale NLM

Organization of a field hospital

October 21, 1854, Miss Nightingale set forth on her errand of mercy at the head of a corps of 34 women nurses and equipped with most of the material for setting up a first-class field hospital.

Establishing herself on the heights of Scutari, near Constantinople, Miss Nightingale and her aids began the organization of a field hospital. At one time, she had four miles of wounded four miles of cots, side by side, with only 31 women to nurse her patients.

Nurse Florence Nightingale

Soon after this, letters began coming in hundreds into the homes of England which established permanently in the hearts of the people the supremacy of Florence Nightingale among all English women. She was the “angel of the battlefield,” “the angel of the Crimea.”

ALSO SEE: ‘Twilight Sleep’ seemed like a childbirth miracle in 1915! Here’s a look back at views from that time

In August 1856, Miss Nightingale returned to England. A grateful country would have welcomed her royally, but she had no desire for public praise. She arrived in England when least expected and went to her home.

Florence Nightingale and Sir Harry Verney (1889)

The queen, however, was not to be denied. She sent for Miss Nightingale to visit her at Balmoral and decorated her with her own hand. The sultan of Turkey made her a valuable present. The English government, on behalf of the people, was very practical in its expression of appreciation and presented her with $25,000.

Perhaps the greatest good that has resulted from her noble life has been the setting in motion of a force which has led thousands of women to devote themselves to the systematic care of the sick and wounded.

Florence Nightinggale's funeral

MORE: How penicillin was discovered, and how WWII let this miracle drug reach millions

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.