Mary Seacole, née Mary Jane Grant, was born to a mixed race couple in Kingston, Jamaica. Her father was a Scottish soldier and her mother a free Jamaican woman and healer who taught Mary her nursing skills. In 1836, she married Edwin Seacole, a naval officer; he died in 1844. Before her marriage, she had traveled around the Caribbean to Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas, as well as to Central America and Great Britain. During these trips she supplemented her knowledge of healing with traditional European medical ideas, did some nursing and ran a hotel business in Panama. In 1854, Mrs. Seacole went to England again and asked the War Office to send her as an army nurse to the Crimean War, where wounded soldiers were known to be suffering for lack of adequate medical care and facilities. She was rebuffed by the government, and so went to the Crimea at her own expense. There she established the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide food and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers. She also visited the battlefields at Redan, Sevastopol and Tchernaya, sometimes under fire, to nurse the sick and wounded. At the time, her reputation rivalled that of Florence Nightingale. After the war, she returned to England bankrupt from debts incurred for the British Hotel and in ill health herself. Newspapers started a campaign to raise money for her and attracted thousands of donations. In 1857, she published her autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, which became a bestseller. She lived the rest of her life in London.