I cannot tell you how suprised I am to have liked this as much as I did Before picking up this book, I had little knowledge and less interest in the saintly nursing pioneer and got the book only because I had enjoyed another Victorian era biography by the author, Gillian Gill We Two Victoria and Albert, Rules, Partners, Rivals As it turns out, Nightingale is actually an incredibly fascinating figure brilliant, highly cultured, moody, wildly charismatic, fiercely ambitious, and just crazy enough to keep things interesting The writing style is very compelling and novelistic, with an expansive view of the society at large think Erik Larson I d recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Victorian era, even if they think they have no interest in Nightingale the myriad details about her liberal, reform minded, highly educated upper middle class family in that time should be seriously fascinating for any lover of Victoriana. Nightingales by Gillian GillThis very well researched and documented biography of Florence Nightingale gives the reader an intimate look into the family, the culture, and the times that shaped the life and character of Florence Nightingale The author pulls extensively from the voluminous correspondence to and from Miss Nightingale to give a fuller, richer portrait of the Lady with the Lamp The severe restrictions on Victorian women, the entail of the family estate, and a call from God to serve came to shape the brilliant mind and life of Florence Nightingale It is an excellent book for anyone wishing to understand deeply the influences on Miss Nightingale I have only two criticisms and these are perhaps indicative of my own preferences First, the author goes into excruciating detail about the extended family and not only the extended family but extensions of the extended family This was very hard to follow for one not already well versed in the Nightingale family and served no useful purpose Second, the author presents long sections of letters and I found the intricate Victorian prose again very hard to follow However, I don t want to take away from the fact that if you are looking for a solid biography of Florence Nightingale, you could do no better than this volume. A terrific biography of Florence Nightingale and her family, from a feminist perspective It s the kind of detailed biography I love, with little side trips into politics of the day, family history, and military detail.At the age of 17 FN had a religious experience that convinced her she was to have a life of service to God From that point, she sought to be trained as a nurse or in the administration of an institution like a hospital As one would expect, her upper middle class family tried to keep her at home and close within the family circle Much of this book is about Florence s power struggles with her parents and with other members of her large extended family For a young woman of her class to become a nurse Just Quite Simply Wasn t Done But by the time she had taken charge of a home for retired governesses, and then was asked by the government to lead a party of nurses to the army hospital in Turkey, her parents and sister were proud of her, and continued to support her in extraordinary ways for the rest of her life Her father supported her financially so that she could live independently, unusual for the time even among well to do people Unmarried daughters were expected to live with their parents.Because her family was wealthy and socially popular, when she went to the Crimea she had the ears of many powerful men Eventually it was her skill at organization, so than her nursing skill which was considerable that enabled her to make changes in the way the wounded in the Crimea were treated, and in how the Army dealt with its casualties She spend two years in the Army hospital, then for the next fifty two years was virtually a recluse, rarely leaving her home But during that time she was busy writing, advising, influencing That is her true legacy.She had many close women friends but made women enemies, too she could be clumsy at leading women Gill makes the interesting observation that most women in this era had little experience of working in collaboration and tended to identify themselves as individuals rather than colleagues Discipline, collegiality, and team spirit were not qualities society asked of its women The author is British and gets in some good snarky remarks History, as opposed to imaginative literature, is based on evidence, and no one has produced any evidence that Florence Nightingale ever engaged in sexual relations with women This I assume to be the standard working definition of a lesbian About Richard Monckton Milnes, said to have been the man who Florence loved but sacrificed to her vocation Gill refutes this In Turkey, Milnes was invited to a pasha s dinner party at which the guests were entertained by Greek dancing boys dressed as women In a letter to his mother, Richard noted that the dance became increasingly lascivious and violent Biographer Pope Hennessy summarizes The dance ended with the Turkish guests getting thoroughly involved with the Greek dancing boys Milnes who had had too much to eat said he dropped off to sleep As a fellow biographer, I can only admire the delicacy of the expression thoroughly involved and the positioning of the word said She s written biographies of Mary Baker Eddy and Agatha Christie and just did a book about Victoria and Albert I ll be looking for these. No nurse s historical background is complete without reading about Florence Nightingale I personally didn t know much about her, just that she was considered the founder of nursing, and that she was known as the Lady with the Lamp The book begins with a detailed genealogy of Flo s parents and their families which seemed boring to me but does have relevance later in Flo s life One of the major familial themes has to do with the inheritance law in Great Britain at the time since women could not own property in their own right, the ladies in the families were desparate to produce sons in order to preserve their own lifestyles This sets the stage for Florence s mother s complete outrage when Florence refuses to marry Florence had a sister, but no brothers, and so after the death of her father, her mother was out on her ear Okay, not literally, but one of Flo s cousins inherited the family estate because Florence s mother could not legally inherit her husband s property.Anyway, about the nursing stuff it seems that Flo was always a very religious and very sensitive, guilt ridden child She decided quite early in childhood that she wanted to care for needy creatures, and took in countless pets She also cared for her sister and her cousins she was very close with many of her cousins when they were ill, and seemed to take great pleasure in the act of caring One theme that cropped up over and over in Flo s private writing was of her overwhelming guilt about some unnamed bad thing that she felt compelled to do over and over I crassly interpreted that as masturbation, but the author believes that Florence had a deep tendency to daydream or fantasize, which took her away from the concerns of the material world, which caused her tremendous guilt Oh, right, the nursing stuff Florence insisted on taking nurse s training, which caused her upperclass family no end of grief At that time, nurses were either nuns and the Nightingales were Protestant or else they were working girls who were alleged to be drunken prostitutes and lousy patient advocates Florence refused to back down and eventually her family gave in, reluctantly After training, Florence immediately took on an activism role, advocating for sanitation, a healthy diet, and peaceful surrounding to help patients heal During the Crimean War, British soldiers in Turkey were dying hand over fist, and with the help of her family s connection, Florence managed to get herself appointed to the hospital treating the wounded at Scutari She loaded a ship with medical supplies that she convinced wealthy friends to donate, recruited a staff of women to train as nurses, and took off for Turkey The Army s medical director was not impressed with Florence s demand that he give over operations of the hospital to her, but eventually changed his mind after she sat, mule like, out on her boat in the harbor and refused to hand over the medical supplies.Once she got inside the hospital, Florence insituted all kinds of changes She insisted that each soldier needed his own bed with clean linens She demanded that the dressings on the soldiers wounds be changed regularly, and the wounds washed with soap and water and redressed with clean bandages She insisted that the kitchen be sanitized, and that all the soldiers required a healthy diet to be able to heal And most of all, she showed the wounded men that she cared, personally visiting each one of them She got the name The Lady of the Lamp because she carried around a small lamp as she walked the wards at night visiting soldiers who couldn t sleep or needed comfort.There s a lot that Florence did to advance the profession of nursing But since I m not writing my own book on her, I m going to stop there. I m glad Gill made her approach from the angle of Nightingale s private life We have enough bold faced stories about her famous subject, now let s hear what was happening from Nightingale s own pen and the pens of those she loved.Make no mistake, there is plenty of interesting material here I was never interested in Nightingale as a biographical subject until I read some of Elizabeth Gaskell s work she was Nightingale s contemporary I found myself moved by what happened to Nightingale during the Crimean War, much so than if it had been a fictional account I wonder if anyone has ever considered that her withdrawal from life afterwards may have been partially a result of PTSD Gill doesn t let her off the hook about her bad behaviour, examples of which there are plenty This is not hagiography. I thought this was a wonderful biography about Florence Nightingale I ve wanted to read a book about her for the longest time, and I found the information about her upbringing and her relationship with her parents and her sister very informative I cannot imagine being a woman back in those times If you were poor, you worked hard and you died, often in childbirth If you were wealthy you were severely limited in what you could do in your life in Victorian England Florence Nightingale bucked the trend of being useless commodity She wanted to do something with her life, and in spite of her parents and her sister, and the norms of society, she went ahead and did her own thing She proved everyone wrong about women were capable of doing.and I m very grateful that she did so This book talks about the mentality of the British Army and the awful condition of the men in the Crimea before Nightingale went out there My only complaint about the book was a little too obvious preaching concerning feminism It wasn t neededthe story itself made the point concerning women.A really good read, I enjoyed it a lot and it went quickly Florence Nightingale Was For A Time The Most Famous Woman In Britain If Not The World We Know Her Today Primarily As A Saintly Character, Perhaps As A Heroic Reformer Of Britain S Health Care System The Reality Is Involved And Far Fascinating In An Utterly Beguiling Narrative That Reads Like The Best Victorian Fiction, Acclaimed Author Gillian Gill Tells The Story Of This Richly Complex Woman And Her Extraordinary FamilyBorn To An Adoring Wealthy, Cultivated Father And A Mother Whose Conventional Facade Concealed A Surprisingly Unfettered Intelligence, Florence Was Connected By Kinship Or Friendship To The Cream Of Victorian England S Intellectual Aristocracy Though Moving In A World Of Ease And Privilege, The Nightingales Came From Solidly Middle Class Stock With Deep Traditions Of Hard Work, Natural Curiosity, And Moral Clarity So It Should Have Come As No Surprise To William Edward And Fanny Nightingale When Their Younger Daughter, Florence, Showed An Early Passion For Helping Others Combined With A Precocious Bent For Power Far Problematic Was Florence S Inexplicable Refusal To Marry The Well Connected Richard Monckton Milnes As Gill So Brilliantly Shows, This Matrimonial Refusal Was At Once An Act Of Religious Dedication And A Cry For Her Freedom As A Woman And As A Leader Florence S Later Insistence On Traveling To The Crimea At The Height Of War To Tend To Wounded Soldiers Was All But Incendiary Especially For Her Older Sister, Parthenope, Whose Frustration At Being In The Shade Of Her Charismatic Sibling Often Led To Illness Florence Succeeded Beyond Her Wildest Dreams But At The Height Of Her Celebrity, At The Age Of Thirty Seven, She Retired To Her Bedroom And Remained There For Most Of The Rest Of Her Life, Allowing Visitors Only By AppointmentCombining Biography, Politics, Social History, And Consummate Storytelling, Nightingales Is A Dazzling Portrait Of An Amazing Woman, Her Difficult But Loving Family, And The High Victorian Era They So Perfectly Epitomized Beautifully Written, Witty, And Irresistible, Nightingales Is Truly A Tour De Force From The Hardcover Edition Excellent read for many reasons, though primarily a view into a woman s world where she sacrifices artifice of life for punishing hours of nursing What makes the book worth reading is the struggle Nightingale had with parental control and the period restrictions on a woman s potential for growth at a great cost Once she gained her strength to walk from the life her parent s wanted for her, Florence Nightingale possibly felt her work giving her means and measures for getting out of her own limits Her philosophy reached a world that was made up of men and established values Social changes, war destroying men s bodies and intellectual future existence in English society Horror came to her and she did not run from the disasters. This was a completely absorbing book not only giving insights into Florence Nightingale s character but also providing many interesting details about life and expectations in Victorian England. This is NOT my review This is the Goodreads review I m copy and pasting below.Nightingales The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingaleby Gillian Gill 3.78 Rating details 360 Ratings 64 ReviewsFlorence Nightingale was for a time the most famous woman in Britain if not the world We know her today primarily as a saintly character, perhaps as a heroic reformer of Britain s health care system The reality is involved and far fascinating In an utterly beguiling narrative that reads like the best Victorian fiction, acclaimed author Gillian Gill tells the story of this richly complex woman and her extraordinary family.Born to an adoring wealthy, cultivated father and a mother whose conventional facade concealed a surprisingly unfettered intelligence, Florence was connected by kinship or friendship to the cream of Victorian England s intellectual aristocracy Though moving in a world of ease and privilege, the Nightingales came from solidly middle class stock with deep traditions of hard work, natural curiosity, and moral clarity So it should have come as no surprise to William Edward and Fanny Nightingale when their younger daughter, Florence, showed an early passion for helping others combined with a precocious bent for power Far problematic was Florence s inexplicable refusal to marry the well connected Richard Monckton Milnes As Gill so brilliantly shows, this matrimonial refusal was at once an act of religious dedication and a cry for her freedom as a woman and as a leader Florence s later insistence on traveling to the Crimea at the height of war to tend to wounded soldiers was all but incendiary especially for her older sister, Parthenope, whose frustration at being in the shade of her charismatic sibling often led to illness Florence succeeded beyond her wildest dreams But at the height of her celebrity, at the age of thirty seven, she retired to her bedroom and remained there for most of the rest of her life, allowing visitors only by appointment.Combining biography, politics, social history, and consummate storytelling, Nightingales is a dazzling portrait of an amazing woman, her difficult but loving family, and the high Victorian era they so perfectly epitomized Beautifully written, witty, and irresistible, Nightingales is truly a tour de force.From the Hardcover edition less
Gillian Gill, who holds a PhD in modern French literature from Cambridge University, has taught at Northeastern, Wellesley, Yale, and Harvard She is the author of Nightingales The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie The Woman and Her Mysteries, and Mary Baker Eddy She lives in suburban Boston.
- 544 pages
- Nightingales: The Extraordinary Upbringing and Curious Life of Miss Florence Nightingale
- Gillian Gill
- 20 March 2017 Gillian Gill