The “extraordinary” Mary Seacole – who is famous for surrendering to the British in the Crimean War – has in recent years become something of a “political background”, says Andrew Lycett in Audience. While many see her as a brave black pioneer engaged in “hospitable society,” others see her as a “quack” – a woman who identifies herself as nurse and “professor” when in reality she mainly sells goods. food and drink.
In this long-awaited biography, Helen Rappaport sets out to bring “clarity to Seacole’s life”, a task made especially difficult due to the assurance of numerous evidences and facts. The fact is that Seacole herself is often evasive, especially when it happens. for her upbringing in Jamaica. However, Rappaport manages to bring her back to life, showing her to be a “tough, enterprising, and fiercely patriotic” woman who, while certainly not a saint, is a woman. a significant incentive for good purpose.
Seacole was born out of wedlock in 1805 to a 15-year-old woman of mixed race named Rebecca and a Scots military officer named John Grant, Wendy Moore said in Literary Criticism. In Jamaican adulthood, she became a “successful businesswoman”, running an inn and selling herbal medicines. She adopted her surname in 1836 by a pragmatic marriage to an English merchant named Edwin Seacole, who died eight years later.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, she went to England and offered to serve in the British Army as a nurse – but was turned down. Instead, she financed her own trip to Crimea, setting up a canteen and “general store” near the front, which doubled as a “walking clinic” for wounded soldiers.
Seacole’s presence in Crimea greatly annoyed Florence Nightingale, who saw her as a Creole upstart and couldn’t stand her, Ysenda Maxtone Graham said in Time. When Seacole visited her hospital in Scutari, Nightingale made her sleep in “the laundry women’s quarters”. She also turned down Seacole’s offer of care when sick with a fever in 1855, later writing that Seacole “wanted to trick me”.
Rappaport suggests that this aversion stems primarily from jealousy: “Old Mother Seacole” is loved not only for her medical care, but also for her meat pies and willingness to serve alcohol. hers. Seacole’s return to England was a celebrity, but fell into obscurity following her death in 1881. Rappaport performed a valuable service in this “wonderful book of information” by recommending Seacole. in “all her fullness”.
Simon & Schuster 416 pages £20; Bookstore Week £15.99
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https://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/culture/books/956050/in-search-of-mary-seacole-a-wonderfully-informative-biography Mary Seacole’s Search Reviews