For many British soldiers wounded in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was more than just another nurse. She was their angel.
Florence, more affectionately known as Flo, was born on May 12, 1820. The Nightingales had adopted the tradition of naming the child for the city that it was born in and when they had a daughter in Florence, Italy, she was christened Florence.
From a young age, Florence’s mother knew that she was different from other young ladies. Though Flo was brought up in the traditional English upper class mold, she did not delight in frivolity and parties as her mother and sister did. Instead, she would be found writing in her “notes”, reading in the library, or in deep intellectual discussion with her father.
It soon became apparent that Florence was to be the more handsome of the two daughters and her mother had high hopes that she would marry well. With very little persuasion, Fanny, Florence’s mother, decided that her two girls would make their debut in society while traveling throughout Europe. Unbeknownst to Fanny, Florence had a spiritual experience several months previously in which she heard God tell her that she would be called to do a great work. Determined to keep herself worthy of God’s great calling, she left with her family to tour all the popular European venues.
In Nice, Italy, Flo and her sister developed a fondness of dancing. Caught up in the whirlwind of “Ball Season”, Florence found herself incredibly popular and was very rarely in want of a dancing partner. Then, in Paris, Florence met a soul much like her own in the woman Mary Clarke. Miss Clarke was a small, bright woman that entertained many of the most intellectual minds in Europe. Through close observation of Miss Clarke and her dear friend, Claude Fauriel, Florence became aware of the fact that a man and a woman could be close with out having an intimate relationship and with out the scrutiny of society. If only England had the open mind of France…
Though she was having the time of her life, Flo was beginning to worry that she had lost favor in God’s sight. It had been over a year since her experience. She wrote in one of her famous notes that in order to make herself worthy of God’s service, she needed to overcome the temptation to “shine in society”.
To be continued in the April edition...