LONDON — The campaign to raise funds for a statue to honour Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole reached its first milestone of £100,000 in June.
This target was met with a donation from UNISON, the United Kingdom’s (UK) largest health union, which pledged its full support to the move to erect a memorial statue for the Jamaican, who treated British soldiers in the Crimean war.
To be placed in the gardens of St. Thomas’ Hospital, London, facing the Houses of Parliament, the statue will be the second in the UK of a named black person, with the other being of noted human rights leader, Nelson Mandela.
The Jamaican High Commissioner, to the United Kingdom Anthony Johnson, welcomed the funding milestone.
He said that the erection of the first statue of a Black woman outside the Houses of Parliament was not only an honour to a great woman, but served three important purposes.
“It will impart positively on the psyche of all persons who view it in the future; it is a tribute to the contribution of non-Caucasian to European civilization; and it validates the contribution of non-traditional African and Caribbean medicine to the development of medical science,” he said.
UNISON’s General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said that the union was very proud to help “shine a spotlight” on the achievements of Mary Seacole, 130 years after she died.
Chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, Lord Clive Solely, said that with many of the contributions coming from small donors, nurses, schools, community groups and others, the UNISON grant was a real boost to the appeal.
“This will be the first memorial to a named black woman in Britain and is in recognition of the courage and commitment of Mary Seacole and of nurses everywhere,” he said.
Mary Seacole was born in Kingston in 1805. She was an herbalist and nurse, who travelled the world treating victims of fever and disease, before selling all her possessions to travel to the Crimea to treat injured soldiers.
She went to London to be part of the second group of nurses to go out and join Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, but was turned down five times. Whilst Florence Nightingale and her team treated patients in a hospital, Mary was right on the frontline. She was named the Greatest Black Briton in 2004.
The campaign to erect a memorial for Mary Seacole was launched in November 2003 and the goal is to raise £500,000 for the project.
By VIVIENNE SIVA, JIS Reporter