Florence Nightingale, 1820 – 1910

Having been in hospital recently has given me pause to consider how amazing the nurses are and how dedicated they must be to work at times arduous hours and to deal with tasks which are not always pleasant. And let’s face it, at times they observe the deterioration and loss of a patient they may have nursed for a while. That must be hard, yet they are always so cheery and ready to make you as comfortable as they can and almost always with a warm smile.

I work as a library assistant and find it  hard and feel quite sad when we have to put what has been a great book to rest. So I figure in comparison I must be a bit of a wuss.

Cover of Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the LampI remember in school being taught about the early days of nursing and the role that Florence Nightingale played in that. Florence is very well known for her contribution in the Crimean War. Don’t be fooled though: this “Lady of the Lamp”, as she was often referred to, was so much more than a committed nurse, teacher and carer of those injured during wartime. This I only recently discovered when, on my discharge from hospital, I decided to read about Florence, and I am so pleased I did.

Let me share with you a little of what I have discovered. In doing so I hope you will be inspired to check out one of the many books we have about Florence at Christchurch City Libraries and discover for yourselves what an incredibly strong woman she was, very talented and a fantastic role model for all women.

Cover of The Story of Florence Nightingale Cover of A Winter on the Nile Cover of Florence Nightingale Cover of No Place for Ladies

Florence was born in Italy in 1820 and was named after the city in which she was born. Unusually for women of that era Florence was well educated. Her father, who was her tutor, saw her potential and tutored her, amongst other things, in languages, maths and history.

Florence’s talents included an understanding of politics, ability in maths and statistics.  She was a prolific writer and could be described as a trailblazer in her endeavours to improve the lot of prostitutes to prevent them gaining a criminal record.  She was also committed to improving health conditions for the people of India.

Cover of Letters from EgyptAt age 29 Florence travelled to Egypt. As a talented writer she wrote many descriptive letters to her family about her adventures. These letters have been published in Letters from Egypt: A Journey on the Nile 1849-1850, selected and introduced by Anthony Sattin. A wonderful Arabian Nights adventure and beautifully illustrated throughout, this book is an enjoyable read. Florence’s description of her travels is captivating: she takes one on the journey with her . This book is just one of several items we have to offer for you to read and gain insight into a very capable  and strong-willed woman. Do enjoy her story.

The Minack Theatre: a worthy bucket list addition

Two photographs caught my eye when I was flicking through a very old copy of the National Geographic magazine.

The first was a photograph of the Minack Theatre (a famous open-air theatre in Britain):

Photo of Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre, courtesy of the Minack Theatre
Photo of Rowena Cade relaxing in a wheelbarrrow
Rowena Cade relaxing in a wheelbarrow, courtesy of the Minack Theatre

The second photograph in the same article was of an elderly woman, Rowena Cade, sitting in an upright wheelbarrow. I’d never thought of using a wheelbarrow as a seat, but it looks pretty comfy!!

Between 1931 and 1983 (when she died) Rowena Cade planned, built and financed the Minack (in Cornish this means ‘a rocky place’) Theatre. This stunning theatre is carved into the granite rocks of Porthcurno in Cornwall.

An extract from the Minack Theatre’s website describes how this was built by Rowena Cade and two men:

“During that first winter of 1931-32, she laboured as apprentice to her gardener Billy Rawlings and his mate Charles Thomas Angove. Using the skills of the two men, granite was cut by hand from a pile of tumbled boulders. Stones were inched into place. The terraces were in-filled with earth, small stones and pebbles shovelled down from the higher ledges. All this work took place on the slope above a sheer drop into the Atlantic.”

Rowena had a superb mix of qualities including creativity, foresight, ingenuity, and sheer determination. She overcame so many obstacles: a challenging location; physical constraints; a world war where resources, money and materials were scarce; and age (she worked on the theatre until her mid-eighties!).

What an inspiring woman and what a remarkable achievement! Just the sort of inspiration many of us in Christchurch like to hear about now that we are faced with a long rebuild journey ahead of us.

The Minack Theatre has been added to my bucket list. If you have included an inspirational addition to your bucket list lately I’d love to hear about it.

Logo of the National Geographic Virtual LibraryAside from the National Geographic magazines that you can find in our libraries, library members can also access the digital archive of the National Geographic magazine. Coverage is from 1888 onwards up until the most recent issues and includes articles, maps and photos. The National Geographic Virtual Library is a fantastic resource to browse through.

Thank you to Phil Jackson, Theatre Manager of the Minack Theatre, for providing permission to use the images contained in this blog post.