Florence Nightingale: The Back Story

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What If Florence Nightingale Was Banned From Using Her Lamp In The Crimea For Fear The Moths It Attracted Would Destroy Army Uniforms?


Florence Nightingale The back story:


A daughter is born to Fanny and William Nightingale on May 12th at 5.37pm. The lamp follows at 5.44pm and the afterbirth at 5.51pm. She is named after the city of her birth, Florence in Italy.


The affluent Nightingales return to England. Florence is raised in two houses, one in Derbyshire and the other in Hampshire. Both have massive cesspits, which makes them the effluent Nightingales too.


Florence is considered ‘a bright pupil’s although this impression is considerably assisted by her lamp.


Young Florence displays a gift for mathematics. This angers her father who bought her the calculating machine on the proviso that she kept it to herself.


In February, Florence gets her first call from God. This has to be considered a miracle because the telephone isn’t invented by Alexander Graham Bell for another four decades.


Florence goes against the wishes of her mother and sister, Parthenhope, by rebelling against the role expected of her as a woman of breeding and status, that is, to simply become a wife and mother. Fanny and Parthenhope, considered pillars of the community, take solace from the fact Florence isn’t male because if her bladder was full at any time in the community, she’d have gone against them as well.


Miss Nightingale becomes a great advocate of the pie chart, believing statistics are easier to present to the public if displayed in pie chart form. This was a slight variation on Sweeney Todd who presented his Chartist customers to the public in pie form.


Florence is considered attractive and is romantically pursued by the politician and poet Richard Monckton Milnes. He worships the ground she stands on: this is because Miss Nightingale likes walking over the rubble of demolished churches. They have a nine year courtship during which he wages a fruitless battle to win her over from her calling of nursing.

This poem, composed by Milne towards the end of their courtship in 1851, encapsulates his frustrations:

FLORENCE  by Richard Monckton Milnes MP

Florence, Florence, then love of my life, 

I’d give you my heart if you would be my wife. 

   I’d present you my vessel of dedicated devotion,   

   Though you’d prefer a bottle of calamine lotion.

For nigh a decade I’ve striven to be your master,

But you value more the staying power of a plaster.

You profess the desire to treat strange men in bed,

Though only if they be half dead!


Florence visits a Lutheran religious community in Germany where the pastor and deaconesses do good work for the sick and deprived. Her stay there forms the basis for her first book the following year called The Institution of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine, for the Practical Training of Deaconesses, etc. The publisher is convinced that had the book had a more catchy title, sales figures might have reached double figures. Although, had the title been too catchy, Florence would’ve had it quarantined instead.


Nightingale takes the post of superintendent at the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street, London. She is discovered and promises to return all the superintendent’s mail.


Reports reach Britain of the terrible conditions the wounded endure in the Crimean War. Nightingale prepares to answer the call. She buys the entire stock of a bandage salesman in Knightsbridge. Richard Monckton Milnes mishears this and thinks she has bought some stocks from a bondage salesman and curses himself for not having suggested S-&-M during their long courtship.

On October 21st, Florence Nightingale and a staff of 38 female volunteer nurses she has trained, leave for the Ottoman Empire. When they arrive some of the nurses are shocked to discover that it isn’t a huge furniture storage sales room as they’d envisaged. Nightingale discovers poor care and hygiene and a lack of medical supplies. She implements handwashing and other hygienic sanitary practices to cut the appalling death rates amongst the war wounded.

Florence also takes the radical step of using a lamp at night on her rounds and encourages other nurses to follow her lead.


Nightingale sends a plea to The Times for a Government solution to the poor facilities. This makes her name, and her lamp, well known and many say that they’ll get behind her. However, it has to be remembered that street lighting wasn’t that great so they might’ve had selfish motives.

The Government commission Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design a prefabricated hospital that can be shipped out to the Dardanelles. This results in Renkioi Hospital that, with its better sanitation and improved ventilation along with hygienic measures introduced by Nightingale, sees death rates become vastly smaller than had previously been the case.

On November 29th, The Nightingale Fund is started with the purpose of training nurses.


A year after the end of the Crimean War, the celebrated poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalises Florence Nightingale and her lamp with his poem Santa Filomena. However, it came to pass that, although the lamp still lives on, Florence died in 1910, so really he only did half the job.


Nightingale writes Notes on Nursing aimed specifically at those who want to be a proficient nurse at home. In it she shares her acquired knowledge of how to combat the spread of disease through employing measures such as hygienic practices, good sanitation and quarantine. She further goes on to publish a sequel for those who don’t understand the swear words being hurled at them by a quarantined patient called Notes on Cursing.


£45,000 is used from the Nightingale Fund to start the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital. This project aimed to produce Nightingale Nurses as, so enamoured were the British public with their heroine of the Crimea, they wanted more of her like around. To qualify as a Nightingale Nurse the applicant needed to display such qualities as:

  1. Speaking in a posh voice.
  2. Carrying a lamp (preferably illuminated).
  3. The ability to run other women down (a lot harder to achieve in 1860 before the advent of the automobile).
  4. Being chaste (easily achieved by stealing something from a shop under the proprietor’s nose and then running away).


Forence Nightingale lobbies to strengthen the Public Health Bill to ensure that property owners are connected to the mains drainage system. This is later ammended to just connecting their properties as it’s easier because they’re more static.


The Public Health Act enshrines several of Nightingale’s social reform recommendations into law.


Florence Nightingale’s voice is recorded on the newly invented phonograph. It reaches Number One on the medical charts.


The Nightingale Pledge is created. Initially this was mistaken for a furniture polish. It soon became known as The Hippocratic Oath for newly qualified nurses to pledge their allegiance to the ethics and principles of the nursing profession and to always put the needs of the patient first. There is a sudden rise in male applicants for the role of nurses on the Nymphomaniac Ward of the Doncaster Royal Infirmary.


Forence Nightingale’s lamp is temporarily extinguished due to her protracted negotiations in switching energy providers.


Forence Nightingale dies on 13 August aged 90 in Mayfair. Her family declines the nation’s offer to bury her at Westminster Abbey. This was because Henry VII was also buried there and he had a thing about nurses so they weren’t confident she’d be able to rest in peace.


It becomes apparent that people are generally living twenty years longer than had been the case prior to the social and health reforms initiated by Nightingale as part of the Public Health Act 1874-75.


International Nurses Day is celebrated on what would’ve been Florence Nightingale’s birthday from this year onwards.


Tw/o images of Florence appear on the reverse of the Bank of England Ten Pound Note for the next nineteen years. For this reason, it was a good thing that she’d been born in Florence, Italy and not the Isle of Ust, as the notes would’ve then become confusingly known as The IOU Ten Pounds.

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