In doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, we’re all becoming experts at hand washing—and all of this handwashing during Women’s History Month shines a perfect light on Florence Nightingale.
Nightingale was a nurse serving soldiers in the Crimean Peninsula in the 1850s, when she insisted that her nursing staff stick to rigorous hygiene routines. Her hand washing practices laid the groundwork for today’s hygiene principles and nurse’s still attribute her as the foundational philosopher of modern nursing. While she was not the first to suggest that hand washing was important, she collected the data to prove it; which in turn persuaded others to pay attention and demand changes.
She presented her experiences and her data to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1856. This data was the reason they formed a Royal Commission to improve the health of the British Army. Nightingale was so skilled with data and numbers that in 1858 she was also elected as the first woman member of the Royal Statistical Society. ⁱ
How ironic, that the Italian city where she was born, that also inspired her traveling English parents to name her Florence, is now under quarantine.