2 – Thoughts & Ideas
Original Acrylic on Canvas, 24”h x 24”w, Framed
“I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse.”
As she became a young woman, she continued to stand reluctantly at attention when her parents entertained important people of the day, such as Darwin and Tennyson in England and the Paris circle, including Tocqueville and Récamier. Flo was determined to self-express her freedom of choice as to how her life was to be lived. Convinced nursing was her calling, her physical and mental well-being was continually challenged on all fronts by her parents and sister. She found herself locked inside the Victorian Age, and she refused again and again to be part of it, whether it was turning down proposals of marriage or delving into discussing subjects women simply did not broach in mixed company. Florence was highly intelligent, and she made people recognize it by participating in discussions that would leave them, especially the men of the time, in total awe of her. Her religious convictions were in harmony with God. However, her mental and physical health often deteriorated and her inner angst driving her to break-away and escape from the establishment and be free was taking its toll on her physical strength. She knew what she had to do in order to survive, so she began to educate herself on nursing, healthcare and hospital systems.
Her early writings were thought provoking – she felt God around her, and she used her pencil and pen as her swords. She was presented at Court to Queen Victoria, where she first made eye-to-eye contact and began a relationship that would continue throughout their lives. Florence knew her path was before her and she would take the road less travelled. During her extensive trip with her parents’ friends, the Bracebridges, in order to gain back some of her strength, she would finally begin her formal nursing education. While visiting Egypt, her trip to Abu Simbel, Valley of the Kings, and the tomb of Ramses would be pivotal. Soon, she was spending time learning the art of nursing with the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in Alexandria, then the Daughters of Charity in Paris, then the Deaconesses in Dusseldorf, where Pastor Theodor Fliedner was pleased to see her thrive and advance her knowledge, especially about sanitation and its affect on health. She visited Rome where the Sistine Chapel made a life-long impact, and it was here she met her friend and ally, Sidney Herbert.
Next, the group visited Greece, where she and Parthe rescued a small owl by the Acropolis which Florence named Athena. Parthe made little cotton bags for the furry creature. Flo took Athena everywhere, sometimes putting her up on her shoulder, onto her lap, or in her pocket. These travels further fanned her inner fire and deepened her devotion to duty. Soon after her return to London, she was ready to pursue her dream of being a nurse and her first real job – Superintendent of the Institute for Ill Gentlewomen at #1 Upper Harley Street. It was here where she began to thread together all she had learned about nursing – sanitation, hygiene, properly cooked food, clean air, pure water and a dedication to caring and compassion nursing that is conducive to healing. Now, she was in a position of power, she had persevered. She set out to design new standards and became an inspiration to others. Her reputation grew as she was in charge and now being noticed by the religious, education, medical, and healthcare communities – but the winds of war were brewing, and on the red horizon her life’s legacy was about to begin.
“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.”
• The VR, Victoria Regina, is the Queen’s Imperial Cypher. The red foreshadows war on the horizon.
• While traveling in a large dahabiah boat “up” the Nile in Egypt, she visited the pyramids and was
particularly impressed with Osiris. It is said she buried a cross in the sands by the Pyramids quietly
and without ceremony to bring God’s wing to help the people she saw in physical and mental distress.
• She embroidered a pennant with Parthe’s name in Greek to pass time while cruising the Nile.
• Alexandria is depicted by the carved stone column and sphinx where she studied nursing with the
Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul.
• In Paris by Notre Dame, she studied nursing with the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul.
• Soon, she was finally at the renowned Kaiserwerth Institute in Dusseldorf, Germany, for three months
where her quest for more nursing knowledge became insatiable. She studied nursing with the
deaconesses and read the Blue Books, then a short course on hospital administration.
• She wrote “Cassandra”, which included “Suggestions for Thought”; “Causes” represents the multiple levels of thoughts she had on nursing concepts and ideas to organize nursing into a profession.
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