Was Florence Nightingale sexist against women

Florence Nightingale is the epitome of caring - and misogyny

When you think of Florence Nightingale, you probably automatically think of the image of the caring woman who selflessly sacrifices herself for others. Who is the second most famous nurse after the woman on the album cover of Enema of the State However, more precisely occupied, must state: She was not a model of pure philanthropy - at least not if the people in question were female.

Nightingale was born in 1820 to a wealthy English banker and was raised well. At the age of 24 she started visiting the hospitals in her home country. Actually, she was originally looking for new job opportunities, because it bothered her that there were hardly any jobs that women could also do. However, she soon developed a keen interest in nursing. A profession in which women were not much more respected than prostitutes in the 19th century, as Marjie Bloy noted. It was believed that this type of job did not require any special training or "intelligence".

In 1853 Nightingale became the administrator of a hospital and in 1854 went to the Crimea with 38 other nurses to care for the wounded, dying and sick of the Crimean War. She was primarily busy keeping the filthy and infectious facility clean, nearly died of a fever, and eventually earned the nickname "the woman with the lantern" because she worked 20 hours a day and the ward mostly at night directed alone. As if that weren't impressive enough, she also campaigned against the oppression of nurses. Actually, a promising, proto-feminist start. However, this did not prevent her from developing an open and hypocritical hatred of women, which only ended with her falling asleep peacefully and dying in 1910.

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Most of Nightingale's work revolved around the theory that women shouldn't even try to compete with men. She believed that women should rather become successful nurses and measure their success by their own feminine standards. In Nightingale's first book Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not from 1859 she urged her "sisters" to avoid the popular "jargon" of the time: "Specifically, I mean by speaking of the 'rights' of women, which ultimately only forces women to do all of this what men do [...]. However, it does not take into account what women are actually best at. "

She had previously spoken out against women's suffrage (a statement that she later withdrew) and repeatedly stressed the importance of women knowing where their place is. A statement that can also be seen as a swipe at the doctors of the time. In a letter to John Stuart Mill in 1860, Nightingale noted that women doctors had "brought no improvement" to what they saw as ailing medicine. Instead, they "tried to be 'men' but only made it to third-rate men."

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Many historians believe that Nightingale achieved its goal of making nurses more respected. In a rather unemancipatory way, however: it urged them to conform to sexist norms such as purity and subservience. According to Professor Anne Crowther of the University of Glasgow, Nightingale closely monitored her nurses to make sure they stayed "clean". As a rule, the sisters were housed together in dormitories to which men had limited access before they finally moved into their own house under acceptable conditions - "presumably in a virgin state".

Of course, Nightingale had no problem with nuns, on the contrary. She spoke of herself in third person when she affirmed: "The perfection of surgical care is practiced by an old-fashioned 'sister' in a London hospital who is unparalleled in Europe." Indeed, many historians believe that Nightingale herself remained celibate for a lifetime and likely considered herself a kind of second-rate sister. But instead of dedicating her life to God, she has dedicated herself to working as a nurse. (Other historians, however, suggest that Nightingale might have been a lesbian. A controversial thesis that makes her contempt for women seem even more absurd.)

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If we look at historical personalities from today's perspective, we find many views and worldviews that appear to us to be extremely problematic. In Nightingale's case, however, she also had a hypocritical and obnoxious way of representing it. In a letter from 1861, she criticized a friend's book, focusing primarily on one sentence: "Women are more compassionate than men." Nightingale countered starting her book by saying that women have no compassion - should she ever write a book. In argumentation, she tried to support the statement with anecdotes she had experienced herself, which once again gave the impression that she considered herself to be by far the most experienced nurse in all of Europe.

Nightingale went on to say that he preferred to work with men. After all, women are neither able to "correctly link facts together, nor to obtain information". Why all of this has to do with biological facts and absolutely nothing to do with the conscious discrimination of women, she once wrote down as follows.

"I'd love to pay 500 pounds a year for a female secretary of state, but we just can't find any [...] You don't know the names of the cabinet members or the offices of the Guard Cavalry Regiment. You don't know which men are alive or dead know that I don't know things like that […] But there are army lists and almanacs for that, but I've never met a woman who would have picked you up - at least in my job.

Of course, Nightingale can still be called a feminist icon - and so do many. Ultimately, she did what she believed in and confidently expressed her beliefs to others. Plus, admittedly, she really was an excellent nurse.

In the end, it's only fair to say that Nightingale was not only quite successful in what she did, but also had a huge impact on the way she worked. Although their negative traits are in no way inferior to other misogynists in history, Nightingale was able to prove that women can be just as wrong when it comes to equality as men.

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