5 Facts: Mary Seacole, Jamaican Healer and War Heroine


It’s Five Facts Friday.  Today we’ll share 5 facts about Mary Seacole.

  1. Mary Jane Grant, born in Kingston in 1805 to a Scottish army officer and a free black Jamaican woman, became known as Mary Seacole in 1836 when she married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole, rumoured to be Horatio Nelson’s godson.
  2. The daughter of a woman who was skilled in traditional medicine, Mary Seacole acquired knowledge of local medicines and treatments during her trips to Bahamas, Haiti,  Cuba, Central America and England where she complemented her knowledge of traditional healing with European medical ideas. She was a nurse in Panama during a cholera epidemic and when she returned to Jamaica, she cared for yellow fever victims who were mostly British soldiers.
  3. In the mid 1850’s, Mary Seacole offered her help to treat injured soldiers in the Crimean war. It has been reported that those offers were rejected by the War Office, the Quartermaster-General’s Department, the Crimean Fund, and Florence Nightingale’s organisation.  But Mary Seacole went anyway, at her own expense.  She even treated the wounded on the battlefield, and it is said that her remedies for cholera and dysentery were particularly valued.
  4. In 1857 Mary’s Seacole’s autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, was published and became a best-seller.
  5. Mary Seacole died in London on May 14, 1881.  In 1991, Mary Seacole was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit, and in 2004, was voted the greatest black Briton ever in the 100 Great Black Britons poll in the United Kingdom.

For more about Mary Seacole, read the Gleaner Special Series, Pieces of the Past: Jamaican Healer and War Heroine – Mary Seacole