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From the Crimean War to Covid-19, modern professional nursing has become an essential part of our health and society.

Florence Nightingale’s birthday, on the 12th of May, is International Nurses Day and Nurses’ Week precedes it in some countries.

Florence’s work in the war was a significant step in the modernization and professionalization of nursing in Britain, its empire, and the world.


A bit of history

Prior to the 19th century caring for sick had been left to religious orders and traditional medicine. Early Christians in the Roman Empire cared for the sick out of charity and to spread their faith.

The Catholic Church encouraged convents and monasteries to build hospitals with the help of donations by the rich and powerful, in exchange for the absolution of their sins.

The Reformation decried these indulgences and closed monasteries and their hospitals. The states operated many of the hospitals but the role of women in such contexts was not yet fully respected.


Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is one of the most important and beloved women in British history. She served as a nurse in the Crimean War of the 1850s which caught the attention of the British press.

In 1860, she founded the world’s first nursing school which is now part of the prestigious King’s College, in London. She went on to have a long career promoting public health and other social reforms.

Her support expanded the acceptance of the role of women in professional work, lessened the punishment for prostitution, and increased food aid for India.

Florence was an expert statistician and innovator in infographics.

Florence Nightingale’s most famous infographic, comparing the causes of mortality for British soldiers in the Crimean War.


Celebrating nurses through Press Photographs

IMS Vintage Photos extensive historical archive includes many unique photographs of nurses and medical staff, taken during wars, disaster zones, and routine work throughout history. 

Visit our archive and rediscover the history of this amazing profession through vintage photos!

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