Everything you need to know about Mary Seacole


It's a funny old world we live in when one of the highest honours someone can be given is a Google Doodle. But hey, we're not complaining, because it gives us an opportunity to delve into the lives of some truly amazing people.

Today the doodle is dedicated to Mary Seacole, and here's everything you need to know about her.

What was her background?

Mary Seacole doodle.
Seacole's Google Doodle (Screengrab/Google)

Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1805 to a Scottish father and mixed-race mother.

Her mother was a "doctress", and taught Seacole about nursing and herbal medicine.

How did she come to prominence?

Memorial at Balaclava
Memorial at Balaclava (Kirsty Wiggleswrth/PA)

She became known as "Mother Seacole", but she wasn't a nurse in the traditional sense: in fact she was rejected from the official nursing ranks four times.

Despite these rejections, she funded her own trip to Crimea during the war in the 1850s and set up a treatment centre for soldiers in the town of Balaclava.

She said in her memoirs, The Wonderful Adventures Of Mrs Seacole: "The grateful words and smiles which rewarded me for binding up a wound or giving a cooling drink was a pleasure worth risking life for at any time."

What did she do after the Crimean War?

Mary Seacole.
A memorial statue of Seacole by artist Martin Jennings (Handout/PA)

When the war ended, Seacole returned to London with little money.

Her bankruptcy was publicised by the press, and many people donated to a fund that was set up for her. Despite this, her finances still prevented her from making many of the trips she wanted to.

In 1857 she published her autobiography. She died in 1881.

What is her legacy?

Mary Seacole.
Seacole's English Heritage blue plaque (Mike Seaforth/English Heritage/PA)

Whilst she was a prominent figure during her life, after she died Seacole was often overlooked in favour of fellow nurse in the Crimea Florence Nightingale. However, in more recent times she has come back to public attention.

Salman Rushdie says in The Satanic Verses: "See, here is Mary Seacole, who did as much in the Crimea as another magic-lamping lady, but, being dark, could scarce be seen for the flame of Florence's candle."

In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton of all time. She is honoured with one of English Heritage's commemorative blue plaques - and is one of the few women to do so.