Episode 137: Florence Nightingale

Posted 18 October 2019 by
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Florence, circa 1860 post-Crimean War

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy. Yes, that’s where her name came from and it’s only the first interesting thing about her!

Florence’s parents, William and Frances (Fanny) were very wealthy and brought Florence and her sister up as their level of British society expected. Not expected was the astonishing education both girls received from their father, and Florence’s deep interest in nursing. What her parents expected was for Florence to marry well, produce sons, and live a life of a proper Victorian lady.

Florence did not do what was expected.

Florence’s beloved Lea Hurst, go take the virtual tour with the link in the WEB! section below. wikicommons


Mama Fanny’s beloved Embly Park wikicommons

She wanted to work. *GASP!* She wanted to be a nurse. *DOUBLE GASP!* Nurses were *CLUTCH PEARLS* servants! Florence felt nursing could be an honorable and respected profession with just a few tweaks to how it was taught and done. More science and cleanliness; more compassion and care. She tried to live the life her parents wanted for her, but she couldn’t. She snuck off to learn how to be a nurse whenever she could, she self-educated and she kept notes. Oh, so many notes.

When she was well into her 30s, she had not only managed to stay unmarried but she got a position running a small women’s hospital in London then was tapped to lead a team of trained nurses headed to the Crimean War. Florence quickly collected an assortment of qualified women and did just that, landing at the Army hospital in Scutari, Constantinople.

Not the lantern you were thinking of, huh? This replica can be yours from the Florence Nightingale Museum shop

Over the next three years, Florence created and established a new level of care through nursing, managed supplies and personnel for the hospital, and became a hero thanks to the reporters covering the war, her family spreading the word, and soldiers coming home. She was the Angel of the Battlefield, the Lady with the Lamp…she became a natural treasure while she achieved her goal of making nursing a respected profession.

Staffordshire figurine, 1855. White Virgin Mary, right?

When the war was over, she returned home, collapsed into bed and pretty much stayed there for the remainder of her life. But she didn’t stop working. The reports and books that she wrote and the statistical charts she produced based on what she learned during the war revolutionized not only nursing but military and civilian hospitals as well. She founded a school of nursing and another of midwifery and lived her life as far out of the public eye as possible. Florence never did do what was expected of her.

Florence with a class of her nurses in 1886 BBC via wikicommons

Florence Nightingale died on August 13, 1910, at the age of 90.

That’s just so Florence! Paul Hilton, via Find-a-Grave

Time Travel with The History Chicks



Hugh Small


Florence Nightingale edited by Lynn McDonald


The one Beckett couldn’t remember the author, it’s Hugh Small who has published several Nightingale books


Gillian Gill


Mark Bostridge


Edward Cook

This one, the first biography written about her, The Life of Florence Nightingale by Edward Cook, is also available on Project Gutenberg


Florence Nightingale

This book is also available to read online at upenn.edu Notes on Nursing

Florence Nightingale


Susan said “adult book” but it’s not “xxx adult book” it’s just not for kids unless you’re ready to have these conversations. By Elizabeth Abbott


For the Itty Bitties, go buy this to tuck into a Welcome Baby gift: Joan (not “Juan” as Susan said) Holub and Daniel Roode


This one is good for a middle schooler looking for medical inspiration. Susan Latta


The Florence Nightingale Foundation provides scholarships to nurses and midwives in the United Kingdom.

If you’re in London, go visit the Florence Nightingale Museum (if you’re not, you can click that link and pretend you’re there, we totally understand.)

You can sleep in Florence’s beautiful childhood home, Lea Hurst in the Peak District! Or, easier and far, far less expensive, you can take a virtual tour of the mansion and grounds here LEA HURST.

Florence’s voice!

If your nerd genre is statistics, this is your site from the American Statistical Association  and this is their loving article about Florence’s contribution to the world of Statistics. Also related, an article from Atlas Obsura about Florence’s often overlooked work with statistics

Smithsonian Magazine has an article about an experiment in tracking the spread of cholera in 1850.

We know, you want to vacation in the Italian villa where Florence was born (or just peek inside.) We *think* this is it on VRBO.



The most recent FloNi Drunk History, with Paget Brewster delightfully bantering with Derek Waters:

Elisabeth Moss is developing a movie about Florence and we are so so so so excited! Yes! Florence needs a movie! A good one! Here’s an article about it in Elle, although the date of the piece has us a little concerned.


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Episode 136: Mary Seacole

Posted 1 October 2019 by
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Mary circa 1871, with medals she didn’t earn, but it wasn’t illegal for her to wear and they really do spiff up her outfit, don’t they?

Mary Seacole was a doctress, an entrepreneur, a writer and very, very good in the room. She had a long, accomplished life and once had a brief brush with another woman of medicine during the Crimean War that has colored how some people see them both. It’s a shame when we can’t appreciate women’s contributions without pitting them against each other, isn’t it?


Episode 135: Louise Brooks

Posted 17 September 2019 by
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Louise Brooks was a dancer, an actress, a film historian, critic and writer. In this episode, we also remember her for her perfect bob, her iconic flapper image, and the many ups, downs and farther downs in her life.


Episode 134: Gilded Age Servants and Heiresses

Posted 2 September 2019 by
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Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlboro, one of the women we cover in this episode.

As we got excited about the upcoming Downton Abbey movie, we thought back to the Gilded Age heiresses who inspired both the original TV show AND our podcast. Julian Fellowes and Beckett Graham both read the same book which prompted each to pursue projects based on it. Mr. Fellowes* created Downton Abbey and Mrs. Graham thought, “I should make a women’s history podcast!”


Episode 133: Isabella of Castile, Part Two

Posted 20 August 2019 by
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Artist unknown, via wikicommons

Isabella and Ferdinand; she before he. The couple ruled together, but she was the one who created a centralized government in what is now modern-day Spain, and together they ended an 800-year holy war. It was she who funded slick sailsman (little nautical pun there), Cristoforo Columbo, to set sail to the Indies and it was she who hauled him back after he robbed, pillaged, enslaved and brought European illnesses to the indigenous people of Not-the-Indies. It was she who gave birth to five children, and she who supported the arts and education in her country.


Episode 132: Isabella of Castile, Part One

Posted 6 August 2019 by
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For a woman who was never supposed to rule, she did a mighty job of it. Isabella not only took the crown, but she also fought to keep it and when it was placed permanently on her head–she rewrote the rules of how her country was run and became the most powerful ruler of her day.

Whoa. That story is going to take two episodes to cover!


Episode 131: Seven Women Revisited

Posted 22 July 2019 by
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We’re revisiting seven colorful women and two of them are the most requested women…that we’ve already covered. We get asked a lot, “Can you cover Hedy Lamarr or Judy Garland?” Our answer? “We did back in 2015 and 2013 respectively.” We’ll also tell you the stories of five other women who are connected to each other in different ways: Josephine Cochrane, Melitta Bentz, Mary Phelps Jacob, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton. Now that’s a dinner party guest list!


Episode 130: Revisiting Joan of Arc

Posted 9 July 2019 by
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By Albert Lynch, 1903 for Figaro magazine.

We thought that it was high time to take a trip back and revisit the life of brave teenager turned saint, Joan of Arc! We’ve both been thinking about her recently (which may be a bonus hint to our next episode)(it’s totally a bonus hint for our next episode) and realized how strong, brave and resilient she was in her very short life.

Here is a link to the original shownotes from this episode: JOAN OF ARC

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Episode 129: Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Posted 1 July 2019 by
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Elizebeth Smith Friedman was America’s first female cryptanalyst but her contributions to both the US government during Prohibition and to the world during WWI and WWII as well as her pioneering techniques in counterintelligence and profiling were often hidden from history. We want to help change that.


Episode 128: Charlotte Brontë

Posted 18 June 2019 by
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A familiar portrait of  Charlotte, a chalk drawing by George Richmond in 1850. wikicommons

After a life of starts and stalls trying to find a way to support themselves, Charlotte Brontë and her sisters Emily and Anne finally hit on the career that paired their lives of heartbreak, horrors, love, and challenges with their vivid imaginations (and a heavy dose of Lord Byron.)