I have come across 6 Florences so far in my Devon and Yorkshire families, born 1860, 1876, two in 1887, 1905 and 1950.
Their inspiration, THE Florence Nightingale, was born on 12 May 1820, and started her nurse training in Germany. By 1853 Nightingale was superintendent at a hospital in Harley Street and the following year she led an expedition of 38 women to manage the barracks hospital at Scutari, Turkey, during the Crimean War. Not your standard nursing career experience. She returned to England in 1856 and in 1860 opened the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. She died in 1905.
When I was a kid I read Little Nurse Nancy. I wanted to be a nurse, had the outfit for it and everything (the baggy tights were non-regulation, my personal fashion statement). Later I read all the Sue Barton books in quick succession; the thought that if I became a nurse like Sue I might have to run a hospital put me off for life. I did join the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, however, and that gave me skills I’ve always valued. I trained as a secretary at school and later college and have never regretted it, I was lucky to discover my vocation at the age of 10.
Last year when I was looking at family in Yorkshire I noticed on a non-conformist page from 1885 that Samuel (a miner from Leeds) and Ellen Nightingale had seized the day and named their daughter Florence.
So this week I had a quick look on Ancestry’s England & Wales Free BMD index for Florences. Between 1853 and 1875 it showed me 149 Florence Nightingales born in England and Wales. I can’t tell you how many of those became nurses because a) I don’t have the time and b) I’ve now discovered I don’t have the inclination to be a statistician either. But if they did enter that profession it would have been a hard act to live up to!
My great-grandmother was one of my six Florences: Florence Selina Dolton. Born in 1887, she grew up in Plymouth, Devon, as strong as the stone her father William Dolton quarried. She married Henry Glover in 1908 and they had four sons and a daughter.
Florence was very active in the Co-operative movement – some day I’ll see what archives might be available for that. Later she came across another strong female role-model: Lady Nancy Astor, when she and her husband Henry Glover hosted her 1929 re-election campaign from their living room, see: Fuelling Nancy: Lady Astor and my Great-Grandmother.
© Text and personal photo copyright Lynne Black 1 May 2014
First published https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/florence-dolton/