Mary Seacole, OM – Saluting 60 Jamaican Women

Mary Seacole - A Great Jamaican

For as long as she could remember, Mary Seacole had two dreams – to be a nurse and to travel. When cholera and yellow fever epidemics broke out in Kingston where she was born to a British soldier and a Jamaican nurse and healer, Mary helped her mother, who had a boarding house, to nurse the sick. Mary’s mother used herbal medicines which her ancestors had taken with them from Africa and planted in Jamaica.

When she was eighteen, one of her dreams came true. She travelled to England. While there, a terrible war broke out between Russia and Turkey. It was called the Crimean War (1853-1856). Crimea is in Eastern Europe, with a population of Russian, Ukranian and Crimean Tatar citizens. Mary tried to go, but she was told no because she was a woman and women were not allowed to go to war. Mary was determined and would not take no for an answer. She worked and saved and paid her own fare to the battlefront in Crimea, where she cared for many soldiers and saved many lives. She was awarded many medals for her work.

After the war, Mary returned to England and worked for many years. Her second wish also came true and she travelled to Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and Panama. During her travels, she learned about herbal medicines used in those countries.

Jamaica is very proud of Mary Seacole for her determination, her kindness, her strength and her courage in breaking the social rules and prejudices of the time, to fulfill her dream of service to those in need. She was indeed an outstanding Jamaican heroine and her name lives on. The headquarters of the Jamaica Nurses’ Association, a ward at the Kingston Public Hospital, the largest hospital in the Caribbean, and a Hall of Residence at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Kingston, are all named in her honour.

To be determined is to be firm in your purpose and to persevere in the face of many obstacles.

About the author

Gloria Royale-Davis