Mary Seacole Close, E8

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Mary Seacole (1805 – May 14, 1881) was the British-Jamaican businesswoman and nurse who set up the British Hotel behind the lines during the Crimean War. She described it as “a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers”, and provided succour for servicemen wounded on the battlefield. Seacole was born in Jamaica during the age of slavery. She herself was not a slave because although her mother was black, her father James Grant was a white army officer. By the age of 12 she was helping to run her mother’s boarding house, where many sick and injured soldiers came to convalesce. As a teenager she moved to London to stay with relatives before embarking on her extensive travels, eventually returning to Kingston where she married Edwin Seacole. When her husband died in 1844, she returned to London and after being refused a position as a frontline nurse in the Crimea (in modern day Ukraine), she paid for herself to go, establishing the British Hotel where she nursed sick soldiers. On her return to London she wrote her autobiography which became an instant bestseller. Her celebrity did not stop her from falling on hard times. However, she was saved from financial ruin following an appeal in The Times, which was backed by many of the men who she had nursed back to health. Following her death she was largely forgotten but her remarkable story was rediscovered and she was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991 and in 2004 was voted the greatest black Briton. This road was laid out over a playground.

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