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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?483032">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

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Florence Nightingale and her older sister Parthenope were born in Italy to a wealthy, well-connected British family and named for the cities of their birth. In 1821, the family moved back to England, where they were brought up at the family estates at Embley Park in Hampshire and Lea Hurst in Derbyshire. They were educated by governesses and by their father. She first achieved fame during the Crimean War (1853-1856), when reports reached England about horrific conditions for the wounded there. In October 1854, she and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses whom she had trained, and 15 Catholic nuns, traveled from England to Balaklava in the Crimea, where the main British camp was located. At the camp, medicines were in short supply, sanitation and hygiene were practically nonexistent, and mass infections were common, many of them fatal. Adequate nutrition for the patients was also missing. Nightingale sent a plea to The Times of London for government assistance. The British government responded by commissioning a pre-fabricated mobile hospital that could be deployed to the Crimea and other improvements to hygiene and care for the soldiers -- although it took many years and much campaigning on Nightingale's part for real progress to be made. It was during the Crimean War that Nightingale was given the nickname "The Lady with the Lamp" from an article about her in The Times. She went on to be a pioneer in social reform and a prolific writer, and won many awards for her work, despite the social restraints on Victorian women and the fact that she was ill in bed for most of the time from 1857 to the 1880s. A statue erected to honor her stands in Waterloo Place, Westminster, London.
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