Image of Mary Jane Seacole


Lifetime: 1805 - 1881 Passed: ≈ 142 years ago


Businesswoman, Nurse



Mary Jane Seacole

Mary Jane Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman who set up the "British Hotel" behind the lines during the Crimean War. She described the hotel as "a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers", and provided succour for wounded service men on the battlefield, nursing many of them back to health. Coming from a tradition of Jamaican and West African "doctresses", Seacole displayed "compassion, skills and bravery while nursing soldiers during the Crimean War", through the use of herbal remedies. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton in a survey conducted by the black heritage website Every Generation.

It has been argued that Seacole was arguably the first nurse practitioner (in the sense of a practising nurse with advanced medical skills). Hoping to assist with nursing the wounded on the outbreak of the Crimean War, Seacole applied to the War Office to be included among the nursing contingent but was refused, so she travelled independently and set up her hotel and tended to the battlefield wounded. She became popular among service personnel, who raised money for her when she faced destitution after the war. In 1857 a four-day fundraising gala took place in London to honour Seacole. About 40,000 attended, including veterans.

Mary Jane Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant on November 23, 1805 in Kingston, in the Colony of Jamaica as a member of the community of free black people in Jamaica. She was the daughter of James Grant, a Scottish Lieutenant in the British Army. Her mother, Mrs Grant, nicknamed "The Doctress", was a healer who used traditional Caribbean and African herbal medicines. Mrs Grant also ran Blundell Hall, a boarding house at 7, East Street.

Books by Mary Jane Seacole

Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands Cover image

Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

History Adventure Autobiography Literature Sympathy Life Charity British

I should have thought that no preface would have been required to introduce Mrs. Seacole to the British public, or to recommend a book which must, from the circumstances in which the subject of it was placed, be unique in literature. If singleness of...