Florence Nightingale Book Summary - Florence Nightingale Book explained in key points
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Florence Nightingale summary

Cecil Woodham-Smith


4.7 (81 ratings)
29 mins

Brief summary

Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith is a biography of the pioneering nurse who transformed healthcare and established the foundations of modern nursing. It explores her life, work, and legacy, and sheds light on her enduring influence on the medical profession.

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    Florence Nightingale
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    The Voice of God

    When Florence Nightingale was a little girl, her parents failed to find a suitable governess. Her father, William Edward Nightingale – or W. E. N., as everyone called him – had extremely high intellectual standards that no governess could meet. And her mother, Fanny, expected refinement, elegance, and good breeding – expectations that no governess could live up to.

    In the end, Florence and her older sister, Parthe, were taught by their father, who devised a strict curriculum that included history, mathematics, and philosophy, not to mention Greek, Latin, German, French, and Italian. W. E. N. may have had an exacting nature, but he was devoted to his daughters. He loved them deeply.

    Thanks to his father’s mining interests, W. E. N. was a wealthy man. He owned an estate in Hampshire, in England’s southeast, and a summer home in the East Midlands. Because of his status, he became involved in local politics. He even ran for parliament, though he wasn’t elected.

    Given their social standing, the Nightingale daughters were fixtures at many parties thrown by family and friends. By all accounts, they were both exceedingly charming. But this wasn’t necessarily a good thing – at least, not as far as Florence was concerned.

    When she was 16 years old, Florence had a profound, life-changing experience. On February 7, 1837, she heard the voice of God. It called her to work in His service. At first, she didn’t know exactly what this meant. What was she to do? Well, for one thing, she felt she should probably stop attending parties. This was a difficult decision; after all, she enjoyed the parties, especially the attention she received. 

    But Florence knew she was destined for greater things. She also knew that she’d have to be strict with herself if she were to achieve this higher goal. That would mean avoiding frivolous pleasures, like parties. And it would mean avoiding marriage. 

    This didn’t sit well with either her mother or her sister. Nor was it easy for Florence. In fact, she agonized over her decision for nearly a decade. Over the next ten years, Florence would meet plenty of suitors. Some of them even proposed marriage. She turned them all down. It drove Fanny absolutely mad, and Parthe suffered as well. She was only a year older than Florence, and she didn’t understand what her sister was trying to do with her life. This drama continued for years: courtship, denial, familial despair; courtship, denial, familial despair. And it didn’t get any better once Florence finally understood the true nature of her calling.

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    What is Florence Nightingale about?

    Florence Nightingale (1951) tells the legendary story of the “Lady with the Lamp,” the famed nurse who arrived to soothe the souls of those wounded in the Crimean War. It chronicles her journey to the conflict’s horrific medical barracks, and how she used her experiences to forever change the way hospitals are run and how the sick are treated. 

    Florence Nightingale Review

    Florence Nightingale (1950) by Cecil Woodham-Smith delves into the life of one of history's most influential nurses and reformers. Here's why this book is a worthwhile read:

    • It provides an authentic and comprehensive exploration of Florence Nightingale's life and contributions, shedding light on her lasting impact on healthcare and social reform.
    • By showcasing Nightingale's passion for statistics and data-driven decision-making, the book highlights her pioneering efforts in evidence-based healthcare practices.
    • The narrative weaves together historical context, personal anecdotes, and Nightingale's own writings, creating a vivid and engaging story that captivates and educates.

    Best quote from Florence Nightingale

    To reach the Barrack Hospital meant martyrdom for wounded men.

    —Cecil Woodham-Smith
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    Who should read Florence Nightingale?

    • People interested in amazing life stories
    • Those curious about life and hardships during Victorian times
    • History buffs

    About the Author

    Cecil Woodham-Smith was a distinguished and award-winning author of historical books concerning the Victorian era. After spending nine years meticulously researching and writing her first book, on Florence Nightingale, she went on to publish books about the Great Irish Famine and the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.

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    Florence Nightingale FAQs 

    What is the main message of Florence Nightingale?

    The main message of Florence Nightingale is about the impact and influence of Florence Nightingale in the field of nursing and healthcare.

    How long does it take to read Florence Nightingale?

    The reading time for Florence Nightingale varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Florence Nightingale a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Florence Nightingale is a valuable read for anyone interested in the history of nursing and the remarkable achievements of Florence Nightingale.

    Who is the author of Florence Nightingale?

    The author of Florence Nightingale is Cecil Woodham-Smith.

    What to read after Florence Nightingale?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Florence Nightingale, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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