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text 2016-07-01 15:20
Mary Seacole: Something I Am Reading!
Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands - Mary Seacole

As opposed to the Boris Johnson thing I linked - this is the book I went looking for on Amazon. Because I'm lazy and don't want to hook my kindle up to the computer to transfer from Gutenberg - but here's that version. I should note that Gutenberg has illustrations, so I have that on my computer to refer to anyway:


Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole


This is yet another woman I'm studying in my continual project to learn more about women's history - because a single college class in women's studies just didn't complete my education. (Though it focused on African and African American authors, several of which I don't see mentioned most places, so it was epic for that. Someday I should post a list of the reading material - except I think we read some xerox'd bits as well.) 


Best thing to do is refer you to her wikipedia page, because she's fascinating: Mary Seacole


"She acquired knowledge of herbal medicine in the Caribbean. When the Crimean War broke out, she applied to the War Office to assist but was refused. She travelled independently and set up her hotel and assisted battlefield wounded. She became extremely popular among service personnel who raised money for her when she faced destitution after the war.


After her death, she was forgotten for almost a century, but today is celebrated as a woman who successfully combatted racial prejudice. Her biography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), is one of the earliest autobiographies of a mixed-race woman, although some aspects of its accuracy have been questioned. It has been claimed that Seacole's achievements have been exaggerated for political reasons and a plan to erect a statue of her at St Thomas' Hospital, London, describing her as a "pioneer nurse", has generated controversy. Further controversy broke out in the United Kingdom late in 2012 over reports of a proposal to remove her from the country's National Curriculum."


My thoughts on this - it's not at all uncommon for books written by women to be heavily edited - or actually any books in that time period. The concept of editors hopping in and changing things up - sometimes dramatically rewriting huge portions - wasn't rare, it was what editors often did. And authors hated it and complained - and we have a lot of fun author letters because of it. (This is a continual source of Shakespearean scholarship, as printers made a lot of edits as well - but of course no Shakespearean complaint letters since he never saw his plays in print. Ah well.) Editing happened a lot (from what I've read anyway) on slave narratives which were published in the 1800s - language/grammar was tidied up, and there were claims that stories were exaggerated for melodramatic effect. (There are also plenty that are use sparce, plain language and are just as dramatic.) Of course some of those claims were from pro-slavery folk, so you have to weigh those sorts of remarks in context. Anyway, if we're going to toss out biographical works due to embellishment, there area LOT of books from the 1800s that're going away. 


I should add here that there are always those who pop up to say "she didn't really write that book" (implied: some man wrote it for her) in the whole history of women writing books. So I always look to that sort of claim with skepticism, and see what sort of proof they have. (If a woman happens to be married to a man who's an author, this always happens. See Mary Shelley, Martha Gellhorn, etc. Oddly if a wife or daughter edits or transcribes for their author husband or father, they're only mentioned in an aside, because (snarky voice) of course they didn't write the work.)


The thing that fascinates me is the "controversy" in the idea that Seacole is somehow in competition with Florence Nightingale, known for her work in nursing and in the use of statistics to prove how better health care in the field could save lives. (Yes, a heroine of stats usage to prove a point. Cool, eh? I didn't learn that bit until grad school classes.) The two women have such dramatically different stories - saying there's a competition just because they're both nurses?! This is the kind of competition that seems entirely made up. Nightingale has been celebrated for a long time - and unfortunately turned into a meek stereotype of a lady nurse when she was definitely made of fiercer stuff. (They made her "safe." She wasn't. Women didn't try to prove men in power wrong using stats back then.) There's only a competition in this sort of history if you have the weird idea that only so many women's stories get to be told, that some stories are more important than others, and there's only so much space for this history at all. We need both Nightingale and Seacomb. And if there's any greater push to get Seacomb's story out now it's simply because we have a much larger group of white women that we hear/read about - and not as many of the women of color who get biographies and recognition. It's about time we heard more in an area where historical biographies are lacking - we need to have more books, statues, plaques, museum space, portraits on stamps, etc for women like Seacomb, and any women that haven't had their place in history recognized. It's not about comparison or judgement of who's more worthy - the whole "worthy" idea is why it's been a struggle to get any histories of women out there in the first place. 


Here's where I add another rant - when you look up many famous women in hopes of finding biographical material and go to Amazon, what you'll often find are elementary/young reader books under 100 pages in length (often mostly taken up with artwork/illustration). I'd classify most of these books as fodder for age 9-12 - the facts are given, but the writing is simplistic. And those are often the only books available. You sometimes have to dig up history books from university presses (pricey, only in paper) or books from the 1800s to get any material at all (thank you Google books project). I don't have any numbers on how often this happens - but for the women I'm looking up it happens often. And this is problem because autobiographical material - and young reader books - need to have factual, well referenced history books that interested readers can turn to next if they want to learn more.


Anyway, I've got Seacomb's book next on my reading list, and thought I'd pass it on. It's only 120 pages - so a short read.

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review 2014-01-13 19:30
Mary Seacole: The Black Woman Who Invented Modern Nursing - Jane Robinson

Robinson tries to reconstruct Mary (nee Grant) Seacole's (1805-1881) life and place in history. 

A Stir for Seacole (to be sung to the nursery rhyme tune Old King Cole)

DAME SEACOLE was a kindly old soul, 
And a kindly old soul was she;
You might call for your pot, you might call for your pipe, 
In her tent on "the Col" so free.

Her tent on "the Col," where a welcome toll 
She took of the passing throng,
That from Balaklava to the front
Toiled wearily along.

That berry-brown face, with a kind heart's trace 
Impressed in each wrinkle sly,
Was a sight to behold, through the snow-clouds rolled 
Across that iron sky.

The cold without gave a zest, no doubt, 
To the welcome warmth within:
But her smile, good old soul, lent heat to the coal, 
And power to the pannikin.

No store she set by the epaulette,
Be it worsted or gold-lace;
For K.C.B., or plain private SMITH,
She had still one pleasant face.

But not alone was her kindness shown 
To the hale and hungry lot,
Who drank her grog and eat her prog,
And paid their honest shot.

The sick and sorry can tell the story
Of her nursing and dosing deeds.
Regimental M.D. never worked as she 
In helping sick men's needs.

Of such work, God knows, was as much as she chose, 
That dreary winter-tide,
When Death hung o'er the damp and pestilent camp, 
And his scythe swung far and wide.

And when winter past, and spring at last 
Made the mud-sea a sea of flowers,
Doghunt, race and review her brown face knew, 
Still pleasant, in sunshine or showers.

Still she'd take her stand, as blithe and bland, 
With her stores, the jolly old soul- 
And - be the right man in the right place who can - 
The right woman was Dame SEACOLE

She gave her aid to all who prayed,
To hungry, and sick, and cold:
Open band and heart, alike ready to part 
Kind words, and acts, and gold.

And now the good soul is 'in the hole,' 
What red-coat in all the land,
But to set her upon her legs again
Will not lend a willing hand ?

Punch, December 6, 1856

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review 2011-01-07 00:00
The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole... The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands - Mary Seacole I picked this up for my Kindle for two reasons. The first is because it didn't cost my anything. The second because I actually knew who Mary Seacole was after reading an essay about her in either British Heritage or a British history magazine.Mrs. Mary Seacole was first and foremost a lady. To call her anything else, except for a lady nurse, would be an insult to this wonderful woman.Mrs Seacole was a nurse, in particular in her native Kingston and in the Crimea. She was biracial and refused a position with Florence Nightengale's nurses because of it. Mrs Seacole did not let this stop her, and went to the Crimena along with her business partner, Mr Day. Not only did she nurse and tend the wounded (in fact, she seems to be more of a doctor than a nurse), but she ran a store that doubled as a resturant.The troops loved her. They called her Mother Seacole.What makes Mrs Seacole's books a good read is what she covers. While most of the book is concerned about the war, the beginning of the book concerns her early life in Kingston as while as Granda. This includes interactions with Americans during a time when slavery was legal. Seacole relates not only stories about her treatment, she could not travel on a American boat, but also how residents of the town in Panama actually intervened in a case of a woman abusing her slave. Her treatment by Americans is sharply contrasted to her treatment by the British and French troops (including some Russians). She had the respect of the officers as well as the common solider. She relates stories about how she regained her stolen pig, about almost being arrested as a spy by some French troops (apparently, Mrs Seacole was very good in wielding a bell as a weapon).Mrs Seacole's book was written, in part, to help her make money during her "old" age (she would refer to them as her mature years). The troops loved her and several came to her aid in terms of raising money for her. The book does not read like a ego piece. Instead, it is as if she is talking to you, telling you the story.This book is a good read simply because it covers war, racism, and women's rights.Note: Considering the recent editing of Huck Finn, I feel I should point out that the "n" word does make an appearance. Please note that Mrs Seacole does not use it to describe someone, but an a** and a b***h use it describe Mrs Seacole. I believe that the word should NOT be edited out because to do so would mask the treatment that Mrs Seacole had to deal with. If you are senastive to the word, it only appears twice.
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