Florence Nightingale. By Charles Staal, engraved by G. H. Mote.
                                From Mary Cowden Clarke, 
                                    World-Noted Women.

Florence Nightingale


Florence, Italy; father is wealthy English landowner
Christian Universalist; "divine calling" to nursing, age 17
Begins service as nurse in Turkey during Crimean War
Published Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is Not.
Establishment in London of the Nightingale Training School
Awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria

Biography as Pastiche: Florence Nightingale's Life in Episodes

Julia Fuller

While biography is devoted to relating the lives of actual individuals (in other words, it is non-fiction), it is a narrative form that, like history, draws on conventions often used in the novel. The lived experience is condensed into a series of episodes; the descriptions are glowing, the incidents are momentous, the exceptional person is rendered in stimulating narratives. In biographies compiled during the Victorian era, female subjects become the heroines of their own stories; yet, when we look at the similarity in treatment used by many of the presenters, these personal stories overlap to create a narrative for the nineteenth-century woman of action. Since about 1980, studies of the Victorian period have rediscovered the many ways that Florence Nightingale was represented as a paragon of female vocation and service. Contemporary biographies provide a measure of this remarkably collaborative process of representation, as if making a classic legend out of a living contemporary. After all, Nightingale outlived Queen Victoria; in November, 1910, when suffragettes mobbed the Prime Minister and broke windows in the Colonial Office government buildings, Miss Nightingale, long an advisor on foreign policy, had only been dead a few months.

A comparative synopsis of versions of Nightingale's life from two contemporary collected biographies. This presentation is deconstructed into episodes for the purpose of illuminating both her life and the techniques of prosopography. Meta-critical commentary based on excerpts and condensed passages from Hamilton Wright Mabie and Kate Stephens's Heroines That Every Child Should Know and Rosa Carey's Twelve Notable Good Women. Also informed by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Nightingale.