On this day in 1820 English nurse and administrator Florence Nightingale was born in Florence.
She worked in nursing in London and was sent with a small party of nursing volunteers to Scutari (part of Istanbul) where the main hospital for the wounded was located. By imposing basic standards of sanitation and nutrition she was able to vastly improve the conditions.
By the time she returned from the Crimea, the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ was famous and a potent force for change. She never married and seemingly put her vocation first. Her most persistent suitor was the poet Richard Monckton Milnes Houghton, who courted her for nine years, only to be rejected. His poem Shadows, probably refers to the doomed affair:
They seem’d, to those who saw them meet,
The casual friends of every day;
Her smile was undisturb’d and sweet,
His courtesy was free and gay.
But yet if one the other’s name
In some unguarded moment heard,
The heart you thought so calm and tame
Would struggle like a captured bird
And letters of mere formal phrase
Were blister’d with repeated tears,
And this was not the work of days,
But had gone on for years and years!
Alas, that love was not too strong
For maiden shame and manly pride!
Alas, that they delay’d so long
The goal of mutual bliss beside!
Yet what no chance could then reveal,
And neither would be first to own,
Let fate and courage now conceal,
When truth could bring remorse alone.
Today I will try to be steadfast in all that I set out to do.