Women Who Inspire Us: Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

Women's Health Monthly: May 2019

We've all heard of Florence Nightingale. She founded the first nursing school in London in 1860 and millions of nurses have followed in her footsteps. We've dug up a few little known roles Nightingale played in her life to share with you. 


Nightingale was a natural at analyzing data. Her early letters were full of lists, tables, and catalogued flower specimens. She helped to create statistical diagrams she called 'coxcombes' (early versions of the pie chart) and was elected the first woman Fellow of the Statistical Society in 1860. 


Nightingale was fluent in four languages –English, German, French and Italian –and also had a working knowledge of Greek and Latin. 


Though her parents were English and she spent most of her life in London, Nightingale was named for the city of her birth –Florence, Italy. Her wealthy parents were well into the second year of their honeymoon across Europe when she was born. 

Owl mom

Before she left to serve as nurse in Crimea, Florence rescued a baby owl. She named it Athena and raised it by hand, keeping it close by her side in her pocket. 


It was Nightingale who first realized that sanitation was a major reason so many British soldiers were dying in the Crimean War. The hospital she served in was full of rats, fleas, and bodily fluids. She organized nurses to clean and sanitize and enforced the use of clean bandages and sheets, leading to incredible improvements in survival rates. Back home, she pushed for legislation that improved sanitation throughout Great Britain.