A statue of the nurse, Mary Seacole is due to be unveiled today, the first of it’s kind in the UK to honour a black woman. The statue will stand in the gardens at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Born in Jamaica, Seacole is famous for caring for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.
The statue is the result of a 12-year campaign in which campaigners successfully raised £500,000. Last November, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that £240,000 of Libor banking fines would be donated to the cause.
Created by sculptor Martin Jennings, the statue will be made from bronze that signifies the contribution black and ethnic minority people have made to British history.
A plaque affixed to the statue will be inscribed with the words of Sir William Howard Russell, the Times’ Crimean War correspondent. It will read, “I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”
Lord Clive Soley, Chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, said, “We are very grateful to everyone who has supported the statue. We look forward to finally granting Mary Seacole the acknowledgement she deserves for her selfless support of British soldiers. The statue will be a fantastic new landmark on the South Bank providing much needed recognition of the contribution black and ethnic minorities have made throughout British history and a celebration of the UK’s diversity.”
Despite the War Office refusing to send her to Crimea as an Army nurse, Seacole went anyway and set up a ‘British Hotel’, providing a comfortable place and medical care for British soldiers to recover from battlefield injuries. She became known as Mother Seacole, but returned to England destitute and in ill health. She died in 1881. In 2004, she was recognised as the greatest black Briton.