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Nightingale and Seacole: A Rivalry?

The current featured ANS article is titled “Considering the ‘Bitter Rivalry’ Within the Context of European and Colonial History of Women Healers” by Adeline Falk-Rafael, PhD, RN, FAAN. This article will be available for download at no cost while it is featured – an apt resource for the week we celebrate “Nurses’ Week”! Here is a message that Dr. Falk-Rafael provided giving some background related to this work:

I first learned about Mary Seacole from a group of Caribbean nursing students who were in my leadership course in a BScN program at York University in Ontario, Canada. They presented Seacole to the class as a nursing leader whom they admired. A number of years later, I heard Mary Seacole spoken of in disparaging terms at a nursing meeting so turned to her autobiographical account of her life and work. Her book, I believe, reveals her to have been a woman healer, providing both caring and curing services to the people she served, like women had for centuries before her.

I have also long been an admirer of Florence Nightingale. I wrote this article to honour both these 19th century nurses in the hopes of lessening what has been called a “bitter rivalry” among today’s nurses. As I reflected on the current polarized views among nurses and others, I was reminded of the historical treatment of women healers, particularly by medicine, and wondered whether a similar dynamic might be at play within nursing with regard to Mary Seacole. I draw no generalized conclusions in that regard, believing the answer is likely complex and different for each, but hope the article leads readers to consider the bitter rivalry and draw their own individual conclusions.

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