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Historian and Author Brings New Light to Florence Nightingale

Judith Lissauer Cromwell, author of “Florence Nightingale, Feminist,” conducted a discussion of the legendary pioneer of nursing during Nurses’ Week celebration at Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing.

She knew little about ‘the lady with a lamp’ until a chance reading of a reviewer’s comment that Florence Nightingale’s letters raised interesting questions but no definitive answers. “That sounded like a challenge, and I like challenges,” the writer responded to an email query about her inspiration for writing the book, published by McFarland & Company (March 2013).

Educated as an historian, she earned a doctorate in modern European history with academic distinction from New York University. She spent several years working in Wall Street before returning to her original interest.

Asked what message a nursing student could glean from her book, which has been described as the “first full–‐length biography of Nightingale written from a post–‐ feminist perspective,” she deferred to Florence Nightingale’s own words.

“In her youth, when struggling against great odds to become a nurse, she said, ‘Resignation, I have never understood the word.’ And immediately after the Crimean war when she faced daunting challenges to her nursing and administrative abilities: “I attribute my success to this I NEVER GAVE OR TOOK AN EXCUSE,’” Nightingale’s capitalization, noted Dr. Cromwell.

She added, “In later life, her advice to graduates of her eponymous, pioneering, nurse training school was: ‘The work that tells is the work of the skillful hand, directed by the cool head, and inspired by the loving heart.’”

“It was an honor to have Dr. Cromwell share with our students and staff her scholarly insights about a woman whose life’s work continues to be an inspiration to all,” said Janet Mackin, RN, EdD, Dean, Phillips Beth Israel.