In Search of Mary Seacole

Pegasus. Sept. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9781639362745. $29.95. BIOG
Rappaport (The Race To Save the Romanovs) brings Mary Seacole to life on the page and provides the real story of the woman who was voted the greatest Black Briton in 2004. Seacole was a Jamaican-born nurse, who gained fame as one of the first nurse practitioners during the Crimean War (1853–56). By using the herbal medicines she learned from her mother, Seacole ran an independent venture that focused on helping British soldiers after she was rejected to be part of the nursing contingent that included Florence Nightingale. Seacole’s story was well-known upon the publication of her 1857 autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, and then she was forgotten for more than a century. The author purchased a portrait of Seacole in 2003, which started an arduous search for the truth behind her story. In this extremely well-researched biography, Rappaport illuminates Seacole’s life, including not only her early years in Jamaica but also her work in Panama and her family’s business ventures.
VERDICT Rappaport digs deeply into often spotty and confusing records to uncover the life of a nurse who became salvation for soldiers fighting in Crimea.
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