Mary Seacole (1805–1881)
Born in Jamaica, Mary Seacole trained as a nurse and sailed to England to offer her services in the Crimean War. Her offer was turned down (presumably) due to racism; she therefore financed her own travel to the Crimea, setting up an independent medicinal store and clinic that utilised her extensive knowledge of both Western and traditional Jamaican medicine.
Many soldiers chose to visit Seacole even though army authorities and hospitals chose not to cooperate with her – Florence Nightingale met her several times but repeatedly declined her offer to join her staff – and her success rates were notably higher than Nightingale’s hospital at Scutari.
Despite her reputation, and huge support from The Times newspaper upon her return to the UK, Seacole’s pioneering work as a woman entering medicine has only recently been acknowledged.