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Letter to Nursing Students: 28 May 1900

Between 1872 and 1900 Miss Nightingale used, when she was able, to send an annual letter or address to the probationer-nurses of the Nightingale School at St. Thomas’ Hospital, “and the nurses who have been trained there." These addresses were usually read aloud by Sir Harry Verney, the chairman of the Nightingale Fund, in the presence of the probationers and nurses, and a printed copy or a lithographed facsimile of the manuscript was given to each of the nurses present, “for private use only.” A few also were written for the Nightingale Nurses serving in Edinburgh.

Nightingale, F. (1914). Preface. In R. Nash (Ed.), FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE TO HER NURSES. MacMillan and Co.

We believe this letter is a facsimile and not an original.


May 28, 1900

My dear children,
You have called me
your Mother-Chief;
it is an honour to me
& a great honour, to call
you my children.
Always keep up the
honour of this
honourable profession.
I thank you -May I say
our Heavenly Father
thanks you for what
you do!


“Lift high the royal banner
“It shall not suffer loss…”
the royal banner of
Nursing. It should gain
through every one of you.
It has gained through
you immensely.

The old Romans were
in some respects I think
superior to us. But they
had no idea of being
good to the sick and
weak.           That


came in with
Christianity. Christ
was the author of our
profession. We honour
Christ when we are
good Nurses. We
dishonour Him when
we are bad or careless
Nurses. We dishonour
Him when we do not
do our best to relieve
suffering -even in the
meanest creature.
Kindness to sick man,


woman & child came
in with Christ. They
used to be left on the
banks of the great
rivers to starve or
drown themselves.
Lepers were kept apart –
The Nation did not try
to avert or to cure
leprosy. There have
been lepers in England.
Now it is a thing almost
if not quite unknown.


There have been great,
I may say, discoveries,
in Nursing:
A very remarkable Doctor,
a great friend of mine,
now dead, introduced
new ideas about Consumption, which
might ^then be called
the curse of England.
His own wife was
what is called “consumptive”
i.e. she had tuberculer
disease in her lungs.
He said to her: “Now
“you have to chose: either


“you must spend the
“next 6 months in your
“room or you must garden
“everyday.” [They had a
wretched little garden at
the end of a street.]
“You must dig -get
“your feet wet ever day.”
She chose the latter –
became the hardiest of
women & lived to be old.
The change in the
treatment of Pneumonia
-disease of the lungs-
is complete. I myself


saw a Doctor take up a
child-sufferer, which
seemed as if it could
hardly breathe -carry it
to the window, open the
window at the top, &
hold it up there. The
nurse positively yelled
with horror. He only
said: “When my Patient
“can breathe but little
“air, I like that little
“good.” The child
recovered & lived to
old age.


Nursing is become a
profession. Trained
Nursing no longer an
object but a fact.
But, oh, if home Nursing
could become an everyday
fact here in this big city
of London, the biggest in
the world, in an island
the smallest inhabited
island in the world.
But here in London
in feeding -a most
important branch of it
-if you ask a
mother who has perhaps
brought you a sick


child to “look at”: “What
have you given it to eat?”
She answers triumphantly,
“O, it has the same as we
have”(!). Yes, often including
the gin. And a city
where milk, & good milk,
is now easier to get
than in the country.
For all farmers send their milk to London
or the great cities.
A sick child has been
sent to Hospital (and
recovered). You ask what
it had: ‘O, they gave it
‘nothing- nothing-‘


It is true they gave it
nothing but milk.
Milk is ‘nothing’. Milk
the most nourishing of
all things. Sick men
have recovered & lived
upon milk.

“My soul doth magnify
the Lord & my Spirit
hath rejoiced in God
my Saviour.”
The 19th Century (there was
a tradition) was to be the
century of Woman. How
true that legendary


prophecy has been!
Woman was the ^home drudge.
Now she is the teacher.
Let her not forfeit it
by being the arrogant-
the “Equal with Men.”
She does not forfeit it
by being the help “meet.”

Now, will you let me
try to thank you,
tho’ words cannot
express my thankfulness,
for all your kind thoughts,
for your beautiful Books

& basket of flowers
& kind wishes, all.
God bless you all
and me your Mother-Chief,
as you are good enough
to call me,

My dear children
Florence Nightingale

All our Nurses