So much more than ‘the Lady with the Lamp,’ Florence Nightingale was an English social reformer and statistician and the founder of modern nursing. Working as a nurse at a time when nursing garnered little respect, Nightingale rose to prominence during the Crimean War and brought her profession with her. In 1853, she was sent a medical centre in Scutari where 42.7% of admitted patients died. Deducing that there was a link between poor sanitation and that high mortality rate, she implemented strict hygiene rules that whittled the figure down to 2% in just four months. Her dedication to improving the living conditions of soldiers in hospitals was hailed by both the press and the public, and the first image of Florence as ‘The Lady with the Lamp’ was published in February 1855, launching her to an iconic status.
This was just the start, however. Nightingale devoted the rest of her life to reforming healthcare. Between 1871 and 1875, Nightingale worked with the British government to enact far-reaching sanitation laws. An ode to her success: by 1935, Britain’s national life expectancy had increased by 20 years. She also advocated for better hunger relief in India, helped to abolish harsh prostitution laws and expanded the female participation in the workforce. A natural at analysing data, she helped popularise the pie chart too. In between revolutionising nursing and modernizing mathematics, she also wrote a novel, Cassandra, exploring oppression of women in Britain, and published around 200 feminist texts. So… next time you’re procrastinating doing the washing up, let this Florence Nightingale tea towel inspire you to achieve incredible things.