Mary Jane Seacole (née Grant)(1805-1881), Nurse, adventurer and writer
Sitter in 1 portrait
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Seacole owes her reputation to her nursing activities during the Crimean war. Rebuffed probably due to her mixed race when she tried to join Florence Nightingale's nursing sisters, she travelled independently to Balaklava where she helped open the British Hotel halfway between the harbour and British Headquarters. It served as an officers' club, a canteen for troops and a base for her nursing. She remained in the Crimea until July 1856, returning to England after financial difficulties. She published her memoir Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands in 1857. A familiar figure to British newspaper readers through the reports of William Howard Russell at the time, she was largely forgotten for decades until the development of a Black and Asian historiography from the 1970s which has given her a central place in black British history. Posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit (1991). Voted the greatest black Briton (2004).
Watch a film clip on the sitter from the BBC Archive in the Media section below