The ‘Greatest Black Briton in History’ triumphed over the Crimea and Victorian England. “The Times” called her a heroine, Florence Nightingale called her a brothel-keeping quack, and Queen Victoria’s nephew called her, simply, ‘Mammy’ – Mary Seacole was one of the most eccentric and charismatic women of her era. Born at her mother’s hotel in Jamaica in 1805, she became an independent ‘doctress’ combining the herbal remedies of her African ancestry with sound surgical techniques.
On the outbreak of the Crimean War, she arrived in London desperate to join Florence Nightingale at the Front, but the authorities refused to see her. Being black, nearly 50, rather stout, and gloriously loud in every way, she was obviously unsuitable. Undaunted, Mary travelled to Balaklava under her own steam to build the ‘British Hotel’, just behind the lines.
It was an outrageous venture, and a huge success – she became known and loved by everyone from the rank and file to the royal family. For more than a century after her death this remarkable woman was all but forgotten. This, the first full-length biography of a Victorian celebrity recently voted the greatest black Briton in history, brings Mary Seacole centre stage at last.
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