chapter  10
14 Pages

The politics of Florence Nightingale in feminist historiography

WithGeertje Mak, Berteke Waaldijk

One of the best-known women in world history is a nurse, Florence Nightingale. The uncontested heroine of Britain's national history, she is known throughout the world as the reputed 'lady with the lamp'. In short, she was well equipped to become an excellent wife and appeared to be all set to take up her rightful position as a lady in the upper classes. However, this was a destiny the young Florence Nightingale bitterly rejected, as transpires from Cassandra, a piece of writing that was one of her first and most pronounced feminist texts. Gender historians wished to escape this snare and looked into those areas which had conventionally been excluded from historiography: household tasks, care, nursing, sexuality, and the like. A reliable political, military, social, or cultural history cannot afford to do without gender.