Unsurprisingly, people now think of Florence Nightingale as a feminist figure. She pioneered the work of women, went against her own family’s wishes and society’s mores to do so, and had a gift for mathematics as well as writing, the care of other people, and campaigning. She contributed to public health, literature, theology, and even statistics. She was undoubtedly formidably intelligent, and she most likely never had a true relationship with a man. She felt that her calling precluded such contact and, throughout her life, she remained focused on nursing and the betterment of the practice of nursing. She trained other women in the same principles, contributed to governmental initiatives to improve health, campaigned for changes to be made to hospitals and the way they were run, and basically changed everything about the way people were cared for by nurses.
And yet she herself wasn’t really a feminist. She called the work ‘man’s work’, and described herself as a ‘man of action’, feeling that women were typically lesser and too caught up in emotion – the same sort of stereotypes feminists deplore today.
Still, she’s an amazing role model and a sign of what an exceptional woman can do. Just because she doesn’t believe the same things women nowadays believe doesn’t mean we should forget her example. She had a huge influence on all kinds of things, not just the treatment of women, so maybe we should just celebrate her as an exemplary person.