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Mary Seacole Mary Seacole was born in Kingston Jamaica, around 1810 to a Scottish soldier and a black free women who ran a boarding house, her mother was a renowned doctoress and began to teach her healing arts seriously from the time she was ten years old. The great love of Mary Seacole’s life was to travel. In her youth she travelled twice to England with relatives and also visited Haiti, Bahamas and Cuba. She married to Edwin Horatio Secole, who was Viscount Nelson’s godson but unfortunately her husband died shortly, to be followed by her mother. Before the death of her mother she has already earned the reputation as a well respected doctoress in her own right. She enjoyed the confidence of the rank and file soldiers and sailors as well as that of their high ranking officers such as John Campbell. While in Jamaica Mary learnt that many of the regiments that she knew in Jamaica were being posted to the Crimea, where Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire were fighting a war against Russia. At once she decided she was going to the Crimea, where she would be able to look after her sons. Such were the friendship that developed between soldiers, sailors and officers who visited her hotel that many of them called her Mother Seacole, and she in turn called them sons. However, getting to the Crimea was not easy for her. She arrived in London in the autumn of 1854 and applied to the War Office for the post of hospital nurse. Failing there, she then applied to the Quartermaster-General department who advised her to apply to the Medical Department where she failed again. Not deterred by the rebuffs she was getting, she then attempted to see the Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert who was responsible for the recruitment of nurses, even visiting his home, where she waited for a long time to no avail. Rebuffed at every turn Mary Secole decided she would go and open a hotel, and in partnership with a Mr Day, decided to open a store as well. She opened her British Hotel at Spring Hill and was well received. May of the officers and men whom she knew from Jamaica were both shocked and delighted to see her there. The Times correspondent, William Russell, who was later knighted wrote in the Times. “Mary Secole, single handily redeemed the name of the ‘sulter’.” Mary’s concern for the soldiers did not permit her to just stay in her hotel and treat those who came to her. Often after a battle and sometimes even before and engagement was fully over she would be found on the field of battle with her basket of medicine administering to the injured and fallen. The soldiers dearly appreciated her unwavering concern for her health, and likewise were always looking out for her safety on the field of battle, often shouting “Down mother Seacole” when a shell was coming. The Inspector-General of Hospitals there, Sir John Hall, wrote of Mary, “She not only, from knowledge she had acquired in the West Indies was enabled to administer appropriate remedies for their ailments, but what was of as much more important, she charitably furnished them with proper nourishment, which they had no means of obtaining except in the hospital, and most of that class had an objection to go into hospital.” Dr Douglas Reid an army surgeon who met her at Balaclava and was impressed by her wrote, “Here I made the acquaintance of a celebrated person, Mrs Mary Seacole, a coloured women, who out of the goodness of her heart and her own expense, supplied hot tea to the poor sufferers (injured) while they waited to be lifted into boats she did not spare herself if she could do any good to the suffering soldiers. In rain and snow, in storm and tempest she was at her chosen post, with her stove and kettle, in any shelter she could find brewing tea for all who wanted it. And there were many. Mary Secole was always equal to the occasion.” That Mary Seacole became famous in England while in the Crimea is not surprising given her sterling contribution, compassion, humanity, charity medical knowledge and of course courage, she was often mentioned in the Times by its war correspondents William Russell. She often also appeared in Punch magazine, where she was always mentioned in extremely favourable terms, in fact she was presented by the press to the British people as heroine! Lady Alicia Blackwood was equally impressed by Mary and her charitable dedication to the men and wrote how she met, “The far famed Mary Secole who had during the time of battle, and in time of fearful distress, personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as could comfort, or alleviate the suffering of those around her freely giving to such as could not pay, and to many whose eyes were closing in death, from whom payment could never be expected.” The Crimea War ended suddenly in March 1856 and left Mary Seacole and her partner Mr Day with expensive redundant stock with no market to sell them in. Mary returned impoverished to England and moved to London after failing to establish a business in Aldershot, a military town. On the 26 August 1856 the Times wrote of a guest appearance she made at the dinner to the Guards held at the Royal Surrey Gardens which shows the tremendous regard and esteem she was held in. The Times report read: “Independent of the military there could not have been less than 20,000 persons present. Nor must we forget to mention that among the illustrious visitors was Mrs Seacole, whose appearance awakened the most rapturous enthusiasm. The soldiers not only cheered her, but chaired her around the gardens, and she might have suffered from the oppressive attention of her admirers, were it not for those two sergeants of extraordinary stature who gallantly undertook to protect her from the pressure of the crowed. However, the excellent lady did not appear in the least alarmed, but, on the contrary, smiled mst graciously and seemingly highly gratified.” November 6 found Mary Secole and Mr Day before London Bankruptcy Court. Many well-wishers, as might be imagined, came forward to assist her in distress including Major General Lord Rokeby, Sir William Russell and Captain Hussey Fane Kean, all of whom were to remain her life long friends. A number of events were held to raise funds to alleviate her situation, of which the most illustrious persons if Britain were happy to be patrons, including Her Majesty Queen Victoria! Mary Seacole was discharged by the Court by February 1857 the same year also saw her publishing her autobiography “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Mary Secole in many Lands.” It was an excellent book written with much charm and a refreshing narrative style which was recommended to its readers by Illustrative London News. She died on May 14 May 1881 in London.