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Florence Nightingale fans scathing over Mary Seacole statue

HONOURED: Thee £500,000 MAry Seacole statue will be unveiled on June 30, 2016

MARY SEACOLE is regarded as our greatest black Briton, a woman who did more to advance the cause of nursing - and race relations - than almost any other individual.

And now, finally, Seacole is about to get her own statue — and the Florence Nightingale Society is seething.

On the bloody battlefields of the Crimea, Seacole is said to have saved the lives of countless wounded soldiers, and nursed them back to health in a clinic she paid for out of her own pocket.

But some historians have long complained that she has become almost as famous as that other nursing heroine, Florence Nightingale.

The plans to give Britain's most famous black nurse a statue has been blasted by Nightingale fans, who say it is a "history hoax" because all she did was "sell wine and sandwiches" in Crimea.

Seacole — who was voted the Greatest Black Briton in 2004 — is set to have a £500,000 bronze unveiled in her honour at St Thomas' Hospital in London this month - the first public memorial to celebrate the black pioneer nurse.

It will be taller than Florence Nightingale's statue in Pall Mall and Edith Cavell's off Trafalgar Square.

Mark Bostridge, Nightingale's biographer, wrote in a letter to The Times today (Jun 20): "Mrs Seacole's battlefield excursions - three only she missed the major ones - took place post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. Mrs Seacole was a kind and generous businesswoman, but was not a frequenter of the battlefield "under fire" or a pioneer of nursing.

"We would gladly support a Seacole statue, to honour her for her own work and not at Nightingale's hospital."

He added: "We regret that such a campaign of misinformation should have succeeded, noting that false achievements were used at all stages of the promotion."

Former Labour MP Baron Soley has called the anger from Nightingale supporters "frustrating and sad".

"Florence Nightingale will not be undermined by this statue," he added. "As we all know, she created modern nursing, her international reputation will not be affected at all. It is not one versus the other. These are two different women, in different roles who made different contributions."

For decades after Seacole's death in 1881, Seacole's story was largely overlooked, but for the past 15 years, her reputation and exploits have undergone a remarkable rehabilitation.

Every schoolchild is taught about her achievements, she is a statutory part of the National Curriculum, and for many, she is seen as a secular saint.

The £500,000 memorial will show Seacole marching out to the battlefield, a medical bag over her shoulder, a row of medals proudly pinned to her chest.

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