Mary Seacole
(1805-1881)

Died aged c. 76

Mary Jane Seacole (née Grant; 1805 – 14 May 1881) was a Jamaican woman who set up the British Hotel behind the lines during the Crimean War. She described this as "a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers", and provided succour for wounded servicemen on the battlefield. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 2004 she was voted the greatest black Briton. She acquired knowledge of herbal medicine in the Caribbean. When the Crimean War broke out, she applied to the War Office to assist but was refused. She travelled independently and set up her hotel and assisted battlefield wounded. She became extremely popular among service personnel, who raised money for her when she faced destitution after the war. After her death, she was largely forgotten for almost a century but today is celebrated as a woman who successfully combated racial prejudice. Her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), is one of the earliest autobiographies of a mixed-race woman, although some aspects of its accuracy have been questioned, with it being claimed that Seacole's achievements have been exaggerated for political reasons. The erection of a statue of her at St Thomas' Hospital, London on 30 June 2016, describing her as a "pioneer nurse", has generated controversy. Earlier controversy broke out in the United Kingdom late in 2012 over reports of a proposal to remove her from the UK's National Curriculum.

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Commemorated on 2 plaques

Spudgun67 on Flickr
Simon Harriyott on Flickr

Mary Seacole 1805-1881 Jamaican nurse heroine of the Crimean War lived here

14 Soho Square, Westminster, W1, London, United Kingdom where they lived

Mary Seacole 1805-1881 Jamaican nurse heroine of the Crimean war lived in a house on this site

147 George Street, W1, London, United Kingdom where they lived