"I have done my duty"

"I have done my duty"

Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, 1854-56

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338 pp, 15 illus.

Florence Nightingale was one of the most prolific of Victorian letter writers-yet no edition of her correspondence has ever been published. The letters in this volume come from the period that brought her lasting fame.

Writing amid scenes of unimaginable horror and chaos, she gave vent to seething indignation in a torrent of letters to officials, family and friends. For the War Office she analyzed the causes of disaster, apportioned blame and proposed reform. For those recruiting nurses in London she expounded on organization. To friends she enlarged on revolutionary measures for the welfare of the troops. In letters to her immediate family she gave free rein to her innermost thoughts and feelings, exploring the hopes and fears, the doubts and frustrations of her arduous service.

It is not generally realized how close she came to failure. As the first woman ever to hold government office she was uniquely exposed to the envy, hatred, and malice of disappointed officials and hidebound medical authorities; petty squabbles within the nursing establishment further undermined her position. Ultimate triumph made her name a legend, and her interpretation of the Crimean debacle became accepted doctrine. The letters are a unique record of history in the making. From them an extraordinary self-portrait emerges of a complex and contradictory personality, very different from the heroine of popular myth, and infinitely more interesting.