Today I discovered that Florence Nightingale loved Nature as a child. She would collect plants and identify every kind of living creature, aided by the books she received from her parents. But in Victorian times, women could not become naturalists unless they were depraved of all close kind, like Mary Kingsley. Or unless they became painters, chasing the jungles in search of exotic flowers, like Marianne North. Becoming a medical doctor (a “surgeon”) was an even more preposterous notion.
So Florence Nightingale became a nurse. Although she probably treated patients like a doctor and commandeered everybody like an army captain.
Being a nurse is difficult, essential, and respect-commanding. But as I wandered through the Florence Nightingale Museum in London I could not help but wonder, what did little Florence once dream of becoming, before gender roles were imposed on her imagination?
(London, United Kingdom; February 2020)